TE Connectivity relays aboard mission to Mercury

Oct. 4, 2021
TE’s ruggedly reliable KILOVAC K41R High Voltage Relay utilized on BepiColombo spacecraft.

SCHAFFHAUSEN, Switzerland - A tiny product from TE Connectivity is set to fly by the planet Mercury Oct. 1 as an integral part of the BepiColombo spacecraft. Launched in 2018, BepiColombo, a joint mission of the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is a seven-year interplanetary journey to the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System. The upcoming first flyby is part of a mission to investigate and gain a deeper understanding of Mercury. The science mission involves two planetary orbiters, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. Both are carried from Earth to Mercury orbit by the Mercury Transfer Module, effectively a space-tug, equipped with a high-power electric propulsion system that utilizes TE’s ruggedly reliable KILOVAC K41R high voltage relay.

KILOVAC relays have been used in space applications for more than 30 years, since the first mission in lunar landing equipment in the 1970s. Today, they are used throughout the International Space Station, on NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars as well as extensively in space satellites.

The KILOVAC K41R high voltage relay uses a vacuum dielectric to achieve a compact size of 2.5-inch length and a weight of 1 ounce. It has a mechanical life of 1 million cycles and a fast-operating speed of 6 milliseconds, making it a highly reliable solution for space applications. The high voltage relay plays a crucial role in the power distribution of the low and high voltage power required by the electric propulsion used to control the spacecraft orientation, direction and speed.

The historic BepiColombo mission is named in honor of the Italian mathematician and engineer, Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo and is scheduled to complete a total of six flyby events before arriving at the planet by Dec. 5, 2025, when it would become only the third mission to date to visit Mercury.

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