Space mission to solar system planet Mercury: The BepiColombo Laser Altimeter BELA

The BepiColombo Laser Altimeter BELA

The BELA instrument on the next ESA/JAXA mission to Mercury will measure tidal elevation changes using laser altimeter data.

BELA will form an integral part of a larger geodesy and geophysics instrument package on board the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) to be launched in 2017, incorporating a radio science experiment, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, and a stereo-imaging camera. Students are invited to further develop the data reduction algorithms in the frame of a PhD thesis program in order to extract the best possible estimate of the amplitude of solar body tides on Mercury from altimeter data. The expected tidal elevation changes are of order 1.5 m during one solar day of Mercury, and the detailed results will provide in-sight into the geology and interior structure of the planet and in turn into the formation and evolution history of Mercury, its interaction with the interplanetary magnetic field and into the dynamo process in Mercury’s partially liquid core. The algorithms have been tested by modeling with synthetic data and will be refined by evaluation of calibration data of the laser altimeter and by combination with information from the other geodesy instruments on board MPO. Successful algorithms can be applied to real data already available from the Laser Altimeter MLA on board NASA’s Messenger spacecraft presently orbiting Mercury.

Further details on the BELA project can be found under the links to the right.

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