MIXS: studying Mercury in detail

The UK’s scientific contribution to the BepiColombo mission is the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS). MIXS has been developed by a Europe-wide consortium led by the University of Leicester, including institutes and companies in the UK, Finland, Spain, Germany and France.

BepiColombo carries two X-ray spectrometers; MIXS, and SIXS (Solar Intensity X-ray Spectrometer) which will work together to measure the surface composition of Mercury. No-one has sent an imaging X-ray telescope to any planetary body before, so MIXS offers ground-breaking potential for scientific discoveries.

MIXS will analyse the surface of Mercury by collecting fluorescent X-rays, emitted by the surface rocks after stimulation by high energy solar X-rays. SIXS will measure those solar X-rays allowing us to calibrate the MIXS results. Analysis of these two datasets will reveal the chemical composition of the rocks on the planet’s surface.

MIXS data file

  • Dimensions – 1m x 0.5m x 0.4m
  • Mass – 10.8kg
  • Power – 24W
  • Data storage – 20GB

MIXS has been jointly developed by the University of Leicester, the Open University, the University of Helsinki and partners in the UK, Finland, France, Germany and Spain. Funding was provided by the UK Space Agency, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the University of Leicester and ESA.

Name check

In the UK MIXS is just a set of initials, but for the project’s Finnish partners it’s a very clever name. ‘Mixs’ is the Finnish word for ‘why?’. And ‘sixs’ is the Finnish word for ‘That’s why’.