We designed and supplied the optics structure for the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS) – a University of Leicester instrument for the BepiColombo spacecraft which is due to launch in 2017. BepiColombo is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission and will be the most extensive exploration of Mercury to date – aiming to study Mercury’s surface, elemental composition, geophysics, atmosphere and magnetosphere. The Imaging X-ray Spectrometer will perform X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF), a  technique for remote sensing of atomic composition of airless inner solar system bodies. The solar coronal X-rays will excite the K and L shell fluorescence line emission in the top few microns of the surface – which is characteristic of the surface abundance. The fluorescent X-ray measurements will be used to map the surface of the planet elementarily -providing unprecedented spectral and spatial resolution due to its innovative detector and optics concepts.


The BepiColombo mission is one of ESA’s cornerstone missions in cooperation with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and will provide valuable information that cannot be obtained by observation from Earth.The mission will consist of two separate spacecraft that will orbit the planet. ESA is building one of the main spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), and JAXA will contribute the other, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). We were approached by ESA to design and supply the optics structure’s for MIXS – an instrument that would be later installed onto MPO.

In the design and development of MIXS, Magna Parva partnered with the University of Leicester in the following activities;

• Design and manufacture of the sextant and collimator frames and frame inserts for Structural Thermal Model, Flight Model, Flight Spare and Solar Simulation models.
• Design and qualification of the micro channel plate (MCP) retention method.
• System level thermal, mechanical and thermo-mechanical design and analysis to ensure alignment between telescope/collimator and detector assemblies was met for shock, vibration and thermal requirements.
• Extremely challenging thermal environment: worst case -40 to +240 degrees celsius.
• Compliance with ECSS product assurance standards and requirements.


Producing elemental maps of rock-forming elements and performing high spatial resolution mapping of these elemental abundances will allow key science issues to be addressed like the evolution and nature of surface modifications on planet Mercury. The valuable information that will be gathered will enhance the understanding of the planet and the solar system – benefiting all future research and exploration into Mercury.



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