BepiColombo is European Space Agency’s (ESA) mission to Mercury. The BepiColombo spacecraft will set off in 2014 on a journey towards the planet Mercury lasting approximately six years, after which it performs scientific operations for up to two years.

Onboard the mission will be the pioneering SIXS instrument (Solar Intensity X-ray and particle Spectrometer) developed in a Finnish consortium lead by the Division of Geophysics and Astronomy of the University of Helsinki. The main task of SIXS is to provide observations of X-ray and particle radiation on Mercury’s surface for the analysis of the X-ray glow of Mercury by the UK BepiColombo instrument MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer). Aside from this, the data of SIXS is very valuable for independent studies of the X-ray Sun and the particle radiation environment around Mercury and its magnetosphere.

Image on the right: SIXS Sensor Unit Structural and Thermal Model. Left from detector side, right from radiator side

The Sensor Unit of SIXS consists of two main parts: an X-ray detector system and a proton and electron detector system. Oxford Instruments is responsible for the design, development, manufacturing, and testing of the X-ray detector system and the Sensor Unit for the SIXS instrument. The design and testing of the particle detector is conducted by Aboa Space Research Oy (ASRO), Finland.

Other Finnish collaborators are the Finnish Meteorological Institute, FMI (project managing, FPGA coding, EGSE design), Space Systems Finland Oy, SSF (software), Ideal Product Data Oy (thermal modelling) and Patria Oyj (Digital Processing Unit). The collaboration includes also UK contribution by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, RAL (readout ASIC for the particle detector system).

 

See more about BebiColombo project:

ESA's BebiColombo Overview

UL BebiColombo