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Emily LakdawallaOctober 12, 2018

How to follow BepiColombo's launch

It’s been a long stretch of few launches to destinations other than the Moon, Sun, Mars, and asteroids, so I’m thrilled to be anticipating the beginning of a new mission to Mercury. And what an ambitious mission! BepiColombo will deliver two science spacecraft to the innermost planet, propelled there by a third ion-powered ship.

There’s a fabulous mission preview in the most recent issue of The Planetary Report, and I won’t repeat those contents here. This post is just about how to follow the launch. Here’s a timeline, converted to various time zones, copied from the mission press kit and the Arianespace launch press kit (PDF). Jason Davis will be tweeting, and it's also worth following various mission Twitter feeds: @BepiColombo, @ESAOperations, @ESAScience, @JAXA_en, @JAXA_MMO, @ESA_Bepi, and @ESA_MTM. Best wishes to ESA and JAXA for a totally nominal launch!

By the way, in case you don't notice it in the table below: There are monitoring cameras on the Mercury Transfer Module that should get us photos of the deployed solar arrays and antennas at 12 and 36 hours after launch, respectively. Stay tuned for those!

EventTime
(PDT)
Time
(EDT)
Time
(UTC)
Time
(CEST)
Time
(JST)
Start of final countdown (-11h23m) 07:22 10:22 14:22 16:22 23:22
Check of electrical systems (-10h33m) 08:12 11:12 15:12 17:12 00:12
Start filling with liquid oxygen and hydrogen (-4h38m) 14:07 17:07 21:07 23:07 06:07
Main stage chilldown (-3h18m) 19 Oct
15:27
19 Oct
18:27
19 Oct
22:27
20 Oct
00:27
20 Oct
07:27
Live launch feed begins 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
Final launch poll (-7m) 18:38 21:38 01:38 03:38 10:38
Tanks pressurized for flight (-4m) 18:41 21:41 01:41 03:41 10:41
Switch to onboard power mode (-1m) 18:44 21:44 01:44 03:44 10:44
Onboard systems take over (-4s) 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
T-zero 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
Ignition of cryogenic main stage (EPC) (+1s) 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
Ignition of solid boosters (EAP) (+7s) 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
Liftoff (+7.3s) 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
End of vertical climb, beginning of pitch motion (+12.3s) 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
Beginning of roll maneuver (+17.1s) 18:45 21:45 01:45 03:45 10:45
End of roll maneuver (+32.1s) 18:46 21:46 01:46 03:46 10:46
Booster (EAP) separation (L+2m21s) 18:47 21:47 01:47 03:47 10:47
Payload fairing separation (L+3m9s) 18:48 21:48 01:48 03:48 10:48
Acquisition by Natal tracking station (+6m26s) 18:51 21:51 01:51 03:51 10:51
End of main stage (EPC) thrust phase (+8m37s) 18:54 21:54 01:54 03:54 10:54
Main stage separation (L+8m43s) 18:54 21:54 01:54 03:54 10:54
Ignition of second stage (ESC-A) (+8m47s) 18:54 21:54 01:54 03:54 10:54
Acquisition by Ascension tracking station (+13m22s) 18:58 21:58 01:58 03:58 10:58
Acquisition by Libreville tracking station (+17m46s) 19:03 22:03 02:03 04:03 11:03
Acquisition by Malindi tracking station (+21m59s) 19:07 22:07 02:07 04:07 11:07
Orbit injection (+24m38s) 19:10 22:10 02:10 04:10 11:10
Second stage separation (L+26m47s) 19:12 22:12 02:12 04:12 11:12
Earliest expected spacecraft AOS (L+36min) 19:21 22:21 02:21 04:21 11:21
Latest expected spacecraft AOS (L+44min) 19:29 22:29 02:29 04:29 11:29
Solar array deployment complete (L+74min) 19:59 22:59 02:59 04:59 11:59
Monitoring cameras image MTM solar array (L+12hr) 20 Oct
06:45
20 Oct
09:45
20 Oct
13:45
20 Oct
15:45
20 Oct
22:45
MGA deployment completed (L+18hr) 20 Oct
12:45
20 Oct
15:45
20 Oct
19:45
20 Oct
21:45
21 Oct
04:45
HGA deployment completed (L+29.5hr) 21 Oct
00:15
21 Oct
03:15
21 Oct
07:15
21 Oct
09:15
21 Oct
16:15
Monitoring cameras image deployed antennas (L+36hr) 06:45 09:45 13:45 15:45 22:45
Cruise phase begins (L+3d) 22 Oct
18:45
22 Oct
21:45
23 Oct
01:45
23 Oct
03:45
23 Oct
10:45
EventTime
(PDT)
Time
(EDT)
Time
(UTC)
Time
(CEST)
Time
(JST)

What happens after that? Here's a graphical summary, part of our Planetary Report article about the cruise to Mercury. (Note: If you represent a publication that would like this graphic in vector format, contact us.)

BepiColombo mission profile

Loren Roberts for The Planetary Society

BepiColombo mission profile

Read more: Mercury, mission status, BepiColombo

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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