The BepiColombo mission to Mercury is inching its way toward the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. The European-Japanese spacecraft has just performed its very first maneuver in space, hitting the first milestone since it left Earth on October 19.
The intrepid probe — which is essentially a transport pod carrying two orbiters, as previously reported by the Inquisitr — has fired up its ion thrusters for the first time in space, conducting the inaugural test of its electric propulsion system, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Wednesday.
The BepiColombo transport module is powered by four ion thrusters that use electricity to positively charge xenon gas particles and create thrust, explains Science Alert. This is “the most powerful and high-performance electric propulsion system ever flown,” states ESA, noting that — at full throttle — each of the four ion thrusters generates a force of 125 millinewtons.