MERMAG 3 - BepiColombo/Mercury Magnetometers

Short Description

The satellite mission BepiColombo to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, will have two spacecraft, the Japanese Magnetospheric (MMO) and the European Planetary Orbiter (MPO), synchronously orbit around the innermost planet of our solar system. The BepiColombo composite spacecraft is setting off in August 2014 and will arrive at Mercury in 2020.

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 onboard 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.

The ASAP 5 funding covers the development of the qualification, flight and spare models of the Instrument Controller Unit (ICU), the completion of the ICU software, the procurement of all high-reliability components for the instrument controller as well as instrument testing on instrument and spacecraft level including near Earth commissioning at the end of 2014.

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 planetary space research.

Project Partners


Austrian Academy of Sciences, Space Research Institute (IWF) - Prof. Wolfgang Baumjohann, Dr. Werner Magnes


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

Contact Address

Austrian Academy of Sciences - Space Research Institute (IWF)
Prof. Wolfgang Baumjohann
Dr. Werner Magnes
Schmiedlstraße 6
A-8042 Graz