Artist’s concept of 2 spacecraft visiting Venus. Image via ESA.
Double Venus flyby
Venus is about to get a pair of visitors, within only 33 hours of each other. The two spacecraft both need gravity assists as they pass Venus. This is to lose some orbital energy on their way to their destinations: the sun and Mercury. The Solar Orbiter, a joint ESA and NASA venture, is heading toward the sun, where it will observe the solar poles. BepiColombo, a joint ESA and JAXA venture, is heading toward Mercury. The pair of spacecraft will zip past Venus on August 9 and 10, respectively. As they do, they’ll turn their onboard instruments toward the cloudy planet.
First up, Solar Orbiter
Solar Orbiter makes its closest approach to Venus at a distance of 4,967 miles (7,995 km) on August 9 at 04:42 UTC (convert UTC to your time). Solar Orbiter passed Venus once already during a gravity assist in December 2020 and will make regular flybys of Venus as it increases its orbital inclination. As NASA’s website says:
Solar Orbiter is traveling as close as 26 million miles [42 million km] from the sun, inside the orbit of Mercury, to measure the ...