NASA, ESA Launch Solar Orbiter Toward Sun's Poles

Thursday, 13 Feb, 2020

The launch vehicle of choice was the United Launch Vehicle (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

The Solar Orbiter, a satellite aiming to deliver new insights about the sun, blasted off from the Cape Canaveral launch complex in Florida at 11:03 pm on Sunday (0403 GMT on Monday) atop an Atlas V 411 rocket. When it strikes by these two bodies to get momentum, it is going to wind up in a orbit round the sun using a close approach space of only 26 million kilometers - nonetheless about 100 days so far as the Moon is from Earth, but so near that temperatures in their summit in the spacecraft will reach nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also the plane where all the planets orbit. His NASA counterpart, scientist Holly Gilbert, exclaimed, "One word: Wow".

You can check out the launch in the video below.

From here, Solar Obiter embarks on a journey that will take just over a year and a half, and include two close passes to Venus and Earth in order to take advantage of their gravitational pull to propel the spacecraft towards its target destination while conserving as much fuel as possible.

Solar Orbiter will carry 10 state-of-the-art instruments.

The spacecraft has been specially created to survive temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit), and withstand the high numbers of charged particles it's likely to be bombarded with while travelling so close to a star. It also shields the instruments from a flow of high-energy particles produced by solar wind. "If something goes off in one area, we'll be able to see it propagating through the atmosphere".

During its lifetime, Solar Orbiter will make at least 22 close approaches to the Sun, photographing the never-seen-before solar poles.

The only spacecraft to previously fly over the Sun's poles was another joint ESA/NASA venture, the Ulysses, launched in 1990. On that same day, January 29, NASA's Parker Solar Probe made its closest swing pass the sun to date - a record it will continue to break until 2025. This spacecraft has 10 equipment installed.

Ten state-of-the-art instruments on board will record myriad observations to help scientists unlock clues about what drives solar winds and flares. In the next few days we'll get the first magnetic field measurements from our instrument and we can start assessing its quality. They then flip back after another 11 years. And while space weather is vexing to Earth, it could be deadly in solar systems that surround smaller, more active stars.

Solar storms could cause major disruptions to technologies including our energy grid, mobile phone signal and navigation systems.

Solar Orbiter combines two main modes of study. NASA says the spacecraft's instruments can collect data on the solar material and measure it.

Although the three projects are separate endeavors, both scientists said they and their colleagues are awfully excited about pulling all the data together.

There were hugs of congratulations and relief at the European Space Agency's (ESA) European Space Operations Centre at the successful launch. "I will say that we are living in a revolutionary moment in our field", she said.