Electronics Production | August 29, 2011

RUAG Space components part of BepiColombo

RUAG Space in Vienna was chosen to develop and deliver the motor control electronics for the solar panels on BepiColombo.
The European science mission will set off on a voyage of exploration to Mercury, the planet nearest the Sun, in 2013. After successful completion of the design phase, the first functional model of the motor control electronics was built and delivered by RUAG Space Vienna. Delivery of the flight model is scheduled for the start of 2012.

With its crater-strewn, pockmarked surface, Mercury is similar in appearance to the Moon. Its surface consists of dark, moonlike rock, which heats up to over 430°C during the day and cools down to below -180°C during Mercury’s night with no atmosphere to protect it. The BepiColombo satellite consists of a propulsion unit and two independent orbiters, which from 2019 onwards will investigate the planet and its surrounding magnetosphere. One of the two orbiters is being developed in a cooperation project with Japan.

The solar panels supplying power to the European Planetary Orbiter, which will circle the planet to study its surface and interior, must be aligned at a very flat angle to the incident sunlight in order to avoid damage from excessive insolation given the proximity of the Sun.

This precise angle setting and its continuous readjustment is achieved by stepping motors which are supplied with power by the control electronics and can therefore be set with great precision. At the same time, the movement must not cause any disruptive vibrations, and this is ensured by the design of the electrical activation system. Synergies with ongoing programs have reduced the development time for the project and will make it possible to deliver the flight model by as early as the start of 2012.

In parallel with the development of the motor control electronics, RUAG Space in Switzerland is constructing the adjustment mechanism for the solar panels. This means that responsibility for a large part of the energy generation system on the Planetary Orbiter rests across national boundaries with the European satellite equipment manufacturer RUAG Space.

In addition to development of the motor control electronics and the construction of a functionally representative laboratory prototype, the order placed with RUAG Space Vienna also includes the production and delivery of a design qualification model and the actual flight model. The contract is worth more than 2 million euros.


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