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News :: 01/07/2019

Infrared Sources aboard BepiColombo to explore Mercury

IRS_Merkur and MERTIS and DLR Logo

Axetris, Infrared Sources, Leister Corporate

The BepiColombo Mission is a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Axetris Infrared Sources are being used in the MIR spectrometer MERTIS that is on board the Mercury orbiter and was developed by German Aerospace Center (DLR) and University of Muenster.

The BepiColombo Mission

Mercury is the smallest and least explored planet in our solar system. Studying Mercury’s surface in order to understand its formation history is a major goal of the mission. The Mercury Radiometer and Thermal Infrared Spectrometer (MERTIS) will be instrumental in mapping surface mineralogy, analyzing surface composition, and studying thermal effects on Mercury’s surface.


Studying Spectra in the 7 – 14 μm Range

The IR spectrometer will operate in the 7-14 μm wavelength range for detecting elemental signatures of minerals such as feldspars, elemental sulfur, and other rock-forming minerals abundant on Mercury. The spectrometer is based on sequential emission measurements. A stable emission from a reference blackbody source (held at 700K / 427°C) is a prerequisite to attain the required spectral resolution.


Axetris MEMS-based Infrared Sources as black body emitters

The electrically modulated Infrared Sources (EMIRS200) from Axetris were chosen due to their black body emission characteristics. Long lifetime and emission stability are key strengths of the MEMS-based design.

The unique design of EMIRS200 and EMIRS50 is based on a resistive heating element integrated onto a thin dielectric membrane which is suspended on a micro-machined silicon structure. The products are available in several package types from classical transistor outline TO‘s to ceramic surface mount devices including reflectors and broadband window options.


Key Facts BepiColombo Mission / MERTIS

  • Launched on October 10th, 2018
  • Approximate 7 years flight time to Mercury
  • Launch Mass 4100 kg
  • Temperatures endured up to 350°C
  • Operational Lifetime > 1 year after reaching final orbit
  • Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) will carry 11 instruments, one of which is MERTIS


MERTIS developer team:

DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems
DLR Institute of Planetary Research
University of Muenster
Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH
Detailed information about the project and MERTIS can be found on ESA‘s website, such as an interactive journey and the launch.



Axetris thanks the following development partners of MERTIS for their kind permission to reproduce the information in this document:
Institut für Planetologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH (Berlin), Deutsches
Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR e.V., Berlin-OS/PF)


Find the whole success story and more information about the IR Sources here.

Read more about Axetris' Infrared Sources.


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