Arianespace successfully launched the European Space Agency (ESA) & Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) BepiColumbo spacecraft toward Mercury.
The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).
This is the first European spacecraft to head to Mercury and will spend 7+ years traveling to the planet before entering orbit in 2025. Once it arrives the two spacecraft will separate from the transport system and begin scientific exploration of the planet in 2026.
Following the successful launch the spacecraft was deployed to orbit xx minutes later, this was a short mission for Ariane 5 which typically takes 45+ minutes to deploy.
This evening a Japanese H-2A rocket lifted off with the Hayabusa 2 Asteroid Sample Return mission. Following the success of the previous Hayabusa mission this mission is designed to go one step further and return an actual sample back to Earth.
Once in orbit the second spacecraft and upper stage will coast for 90 minutes before firing again. At 1:10am EST we received confirmation that the Hayabusa 2 probe had successfully separated from the upper stage.
An H-2A rocket has never attempted such a lengthy coast period during any of the booster’s 25 previous flights.
“In this launch of the H-2A rocket, we will execute a difficult operation called a long coast operation,” said Hitoshi Kuninaka, JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 project manager, in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “For most H-2A rocket launches, the satellite is separated about 30 minutes after the launch, but for this mission, we have a long coast operation and the H-2A rocket will do one orbit around Earth and when the rocket comes back over Japan, we will turn on the second stage engine again. We accelerate the spacecraft away from Earth and separate.”
Over the next three and half years the spacecraft will travel to Asteroid (162173) 1999 JU3, Once there it will spend one and half years surveying the asteroid before departing to return to Earth expected around December 2020.
For more on the Hayabusa 2 mission check out it’s page here.
The images below were captured from the live web stream of the launch.