BepiColombo’s first Venus flyby

The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission made a close approach of the planet on 15 October at 03:58 GMT (05:58 CEST) at a distance of approximately 10 720 km. Gravity assist flybys are needed to set the spacecraft on course for Mercury orbit.

BepiColombo launched 20 October 2018 and made a flyby of Earth on 10 April 2020. It will make two flybys of Venus and six of Mercury before entering orbit around the Solar System’s innermost planet in 2025.

Even though the spacecraft will be quite far away from Venus during the first flyby, some science instruments onboard the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will be activated to study the planet’s atmosphere and space environment. It is not possible to use the Mercury Planetary Orbiter’s main science camera during the flyby, but the monitoring cameras, or “selfie-cams”, onboard the transfer module will try to capture images of Venus as it speeds past.

JAXA’s Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter and its Earth-orbiting Hisaki Spectroscopic Planet Observatory, together with ground-based observatories on Earth, will also make simultaneous measurements of the planet, taking advantage of this unique opportunity for coordinated observations.