Solar Orbiter Science Satellite Launched


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Solar Orbiter Science Satellite Launched

This morning at 7:03 Moscow time on the launch vehicle "Atlas 5" from the Space Center. Kennedy in Florida launched the Solar Orbiter, a European research spacecraft designed to study the sun. At 7:55, he successfully separated from the Centaur overclocking unit and a few minutes later he got in touch with the Earth.

Solar Orbiter is a mission of the European Space Agency with the wide participation of NASA. It is aimed at studying the Sun from close range and the internal heliosphere – the region of space closest to our star. At perihelion, the spacecraft will cross the orbit of Mercury and approach the star at a distance of 43 million km. The period of its circulation in the working orbit will be 180 days.

For the first time in history, Solar Orbiter should take detailed pictures of the polar regions of the Sun. The resolution of the images will make it possible to distinguish details from 180 km on the surface of the Sun, and thanks to the high speed of rotation around the star, Solar Orbiter will be able to observe the dynamics of storms in the star's atmosphere much longer than is possible from Earth.

The purpose of the mission is to answer the question of how the Sun forms the inner heliosphere and acts on it. Solar Orbiter will study the mechanisms of formation of the solar wind and the coronal magnetic field; the influence of processes on the Sun on the variability of the heliosphere; how energy particles resulting from solar flares fill the heliosphere; and he will study the solar dynamo and the general relationship between the sun and the heliosphere.

Solar Orbiter will approach the Sun at a distance of about 1/4 of an astronomical unit, and at this distance, the effect of sunlight becomes 13 times more intense than on Earth. Therefore, the spacecraft was equipped with heat-resistant solar panels and a heat-resistant pointed antenna: in the process of their creation, the groundwork for the mission was used to study Bepi Colombo Mercury.

The side of the spacecraft that will face the Sun is protected by a heat-resistant coating. To discharge excess heat into space, it is equipped with special radiators.

The payload of the Solar Orbiter is 180 kg. The first set of tools is sensors for studying the environment near the apparatus. They can fix the magnetic field, charged particles, radio and magnetic waves in the solar wind. The second set of tools is designed to study the surface and atmosphere of the sun. It includes a short-wave UV spectrometer, a high-resolution camera, a high-resolution magnetometer, and coronographs of ultraviolet and visible light.

The flight of the Solar Orbiter to the Sun will take almost two years, on the way the device will perform gravitational maneuvers near the Earth and Venus. The satellite is not equipped with a full-fledged marching propulsion system, and therefore its trajectory will completely depend on the Atlas 5 rocket and subsequent gravitational maneuvers. Because of this, the mission control center in ESA was forced to calculate more than 500 different trajectories depending on the day and time of launch – 25 trajectories per day for a two-hour launch window with an interval of 5 minutes. Initially, the launch was scheduled for February 6, but it had to be postponed due to the difficulties encountered in preparing the launch vehicle.

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