ESA – Mercury Landing Technologies

Mission Background:

BepiColombo is Europe's first mission to Mercury. It will set off in 2014 on a journey to the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System.   When it arrives at Mercury in November 2020, it will endure temperatures in excess of 350 °C and gather data during its one-year nominal mission, with a possible extension of a further year.


Customer Requirements:

Vorticity’s study was focused on providing technologies to support a probe landing on Mercury’s surface.

The original intent of the BepiColombo mission had been to land on the planet’s surface. Now the focus on the mission is to launch two orbiters into Mercury's atmosphere.  Landing a probe on the planet's surface is no longer a requirement of this mission.


Our Work:

Working in collaboration with the ESA’s BepiColombo team, Vorticity designed the airbag system for the BepiColombo surface element.

This task included trading airbag concepts, analysing Mercury impacts and probability of success for the airbag system, thermal and leakage analysis, detailed design of the preferred airbag concept, detailed design of the inflation system, risk reduction testing on critical components and drop testing of the final airbag design.

The Vorticity team generated a detailed Mercury terrain model fully coupled with impact analysis.

This simulation provided the team with an excellent perspective on the capability of unvented airbag systems and the required descent and landing system.