MERMAG - Mercury Magnetometers

Short Description

The satellite mission BepiColombo to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, is the first time that two spacecraft, the Japanese Magnetospheric (MMO) and the European Planetary Orbiter (MPO), will synchronously orbit around the innermost planet of our solar system. The BepiColombo composite spacecraft is setting off in August 2013 and is arriving at Mercury in August 2019. MMO and MPO will gather data during their one-year nominal mission from September 2019 until September 2020, with a possible one-year extension to 2021.

A European-Japanese consortium of scientific institutions has been formed to carry out the magnetic field investigations aboard both spacecraft. The coordinated studies will focus on the planetary magnetic field as well as its dynamic interaction with the young and strong solar wind in this region. The teams contributing to the magnetometer hardware are from ISAS Japan, TU Braunschweig, Imperial College London, and IWF Graz. IWF is the lead institution for the magnetometer aboard the Japanese MMO (MGF), while for the MPO magnetometer (MAG), IWF is responsible for the overall technical management.

Apart from the management activities, IWF is in charge of the instrument controller and on-board software development, instrument integration and calibration as well as the procurement of space-qualified integrated circuits. Both instrument designs are based on a digital fluxgate magnetometer which has been developed for magnetometers aboard the Rosetta/Lander, Venus Express, and Themis spacecraft. For the BepiColombo mission it is being modified so that it can cope with the harsh thermal environment around Mercury where sensor temperatures up to 180°C are expected.

Two contracts in the frame of ASAP 3 and 4 cover the preliminary and detailed design activities by IWF, which include hardware development for laboratory, engineering and qualification models of both magnetometers as well as the major portion of the parts procurement. Financial support for the flight hardware development and the instrument integration and check-out activities before and immediately after launch is being supplied via ASAP 5.

The leading role of IWF in key-instruments (MERMAG and PICAM) of the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo cornerstone mission ensures the continued visibility of Austria at the forefront of international and interplanetary space research.

Project Partners


Institut für Weltraumforschung (IWF), Austrian Academy of Sciences - Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Baumjohann


  • Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency - Prof. Dr. Ayako Matsuoka
  • Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestial Physics, Technical University Braunschweig - Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Glassmeier
  • Space and Atmospheric Physics Group (SAPG), Imperial College, London - Chris Carr

Contact Address

Institut für Weltraumforschung (IWF) - Austrian Academy of Sciences
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Baumjohann
Schmiedlstrasse 6
A-8042 Graz