Solar Orbiter - Europe visits the Sun

Learn about the science behind the Solar Orbiter mission, the instruments involved and the design of the mission and spacecraft.

The European Space Agency's next mission to the Sun is currently being designed by Astrium in Stevenage.

The Solar Orbiter will come closer to the Sun than any mission before it, allowing detailed and groundbreaking scientific measurements to revolutionise our understanding of the Sun.

This talk discussed the science behind the Solar Orbiter mission, the instruments involved, and the design of the mission and the spacecraft.

One of the key questions that scientists are still struggling with is "How does the Solar System work?". To answer this question, the European Space Agency has formulated the Solar Orbiter mission as one of the candidate missions for its Cosmic Vision programme.

The primary goal for Solar Orbiter is to produce images of the Sun at an unprecedented resolution and perform the closest ever in-situ measurements. Solar Orbiter will view the solar atmosphere with high spatial resolution and combine this with in-situ measurements at solar distances as close as 0.28AU (i.e. 0.28 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun).

Over the extended mission periods, Solar Orbiter will deliver images and data that will cover the polar regions and the side of the Sun not visible from Earth. The combination of remote sensing and in-situ instruments on a single spacecraft results in a set of seemingly contradictory design requirements for the mission. In its role as prime contractor for this mission, Astrium UK has been tasked with designing a spacecraft that meets all these requirements.

In this talk, an insider's view was given of the particular challenges faced by the Solar Orbiter engineering team and it will be explained how the Solar Orbiter spacecraft will meet those challenging scientific requirements.

View the video footage of this intriguing topic