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Solar orbiter mission

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  • Solar orbiter mission

    I spent last night watching the launch of the solar orbiter on NASA TV. For those of you that might not be familiar with this mission, The solar orbiter is a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun,. It launched at 10:03 p.m. CST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral,

    I just found out that at 12:24 a.m. Monday, mission controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed.

    In the first two days after launch, Solar Orbiter will deploy its instrument boom and several antennas that will communicate with Earth and gather scientific data. Solar Orbiter is on a unique trajectory that will allow its comprehensive set of instruments to provide humanity with the first-ever images of the Sun's poles. This trajectory includes 22 close approaches to the Sun, bringing the spacecraft within the orbit of Mercury to study the Sun and its influence on space.

    Solar Orbiter combines two main modes of study. Instruments in the orbiter will measure the environment around the spacecraft, detecting such things as electric and magnetic fields and passing particles and waves. Remote-sensing instruments will image the Sun from afar, along with its atmosphere and its outflow of material, collecting data that will help scientists understand the Sun's inner workings.

    Following its Earth gravity assist, Solar Orbiter will begin the primary phase of its mission – leading up to its first close pass by the Sun in 2022 – at about a third the distance from the Sun to Earth. Throughout its mission, Solar Orbiter will use successive Venus gravity assists to draw its orbit closer to the Sun and lift it out of the ecliptic plane.

    Solar Orbiter’s unique orbit will bring the spacecraft out of the plane that roughly aligns with the Sun's equator where Earth and the other planets deorbit. Spacecraft launched from Earth naturally stay in this plane, which means that telescopes on Earth and telescopes on satellites have limited views of the Sun's north and south poles.

    This is really cool and exciting stuff. Will look forward to hearing about deployment of the boom and antennas over the next day or two.

  • #2
    I haven't been able to find any updates on the solar orbiter, but did find the following information on the spacecraft.

    The Solar Orbiter will come within 26 million miles of the Sun, gathering images and data from a truly unique vantage point.

    With Solar Orbiter, scientists will for the first time get a good view of the top and bottom of the sun. Until now, almost all of the solar-watching spacecraft have orbited in the ecliptic, or the same plane that the planets travel around the sun.

    That change of view could help solve mysteries about how the sun spews high-velocity charged particles that fly outward through the solar system and buffet the planets, including Earth. The magnetic fields that accelerate those particles flow into and out of the sun’s poles. The data from Solar Orbiter could help explain the sunspot cycle — Why does the cycle last 11 years? Why are some quiet and others roar violently? — and help models to predict solar storms that could disrupt Earth’s power grids and satellites in orbit.

    The launch trajectory will take Solar Orbiter away from Earth into an orbit around the sun. A flyby of Venus on the day after Christmas will sap some of its energy and let it spiral closer toward the sun.

    Additional flybys — one of Earth, two more of Venus — will further adjust the orbit, which will still be in the ecliptic, the plane of the orbits.

    A flyby of Venus in 2025 will swing Solar Orbiter out of the ecliptic to an angle of 17 degrees. That is enough to get a good glimpse of the polar regions. Additional Venus flybys will increase the angle to 33 degrees.

    The mission is expected to complete 22 orbits of the sun in 10 years.


    • #3
      This thread will cover just about any updates that come out.

      That site has nerds scouring everything for every bit of space-related news available.