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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:23 am 
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Location: Lancashire
An Ariane launch next Saturday will send two probes, one of British construction and the other Japanese, to orbit Mercury. The BepiColumbo orbiters will take seven years to reach Mercury, after a series of gravity-assisted flybys, involving Earth, Venus and Mercury.
The BepiColumbo spacecraft will be the first to use electrical ion thrusters to reach Mercury. The system produces a plasma, and although the force of the thrust is weak, it can be maintained for a long period of time. Team member Dr. Jerry Bolter said: "If we relied on chemical propulsion, then we'd need 17 tonnes of propellant. The ion drive needs just 581kgs of propellant and does the equivalent of 17.8 million miles to the gallon."
Due to the Sun's enormous gravity hold on Mercury, The orbiters ion drives are used to brake and overcome the Solar gravitational field for orbital insertion. There have been two probes to Mercury, both by Nasa, with the three-times flyby Mariner in 1974-75 and the orbiting Messenger from 2011 to 2015.

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