Liftoff! Solar Orbiter launches successfully | Space

The ESA  NASA Solar Orbiter mission will face the Sun from within the orbit of Mercury at its closest approach. Image credit ESA  ATG Medialab

In Earth's neighborhood, space weather can interfere with the technology modern society is ever more reliant upon, particularly navigation and communication satellites.

A previous ESA-NASA mission, Ulysses, launched in 1990, achieved an inclined orbit giving scientists their first measurements of the space around the Sun in this critical region.

Update: If you missed the live coverage, watch the Solar Orbiter Liftoff Video. An Atlas V rocket built by USA -based United Launch Alliance carried it into space.

Interference between onboard instruments and solar magnetic fields (that the spacecraft is created to measure) was another worry. Within ten years, the mission is expected to complete 22 sun orbits.

The two poles have not been photographed or mapped before.

"Gravity assists from Earth and Venus will help swing the spacecraft out of the ecliptic plane, or the space that aligns with the sun's equator, so it can study the sun's poles from above and below", CNN writes. "As NASA moves forward to return to the moon, Mars and beyond with our Artemis program, missions like Solar Orbiter joining our fleet become really critical". The spacecraft will perform a series of flybys of Venus to increase the inclination of the orbit around the sun, allowing it to see the poles of the sun.

Parker Solar Probe, by contrast, has already passed within 18.6 million kilometres of the sun, an all-time record, and is shooting for a slim gap of six million kilometres by 2025. It is now packed a heat shield that weighs 150kg and is said to withstand temperatures up to 520 degrees Celsius. It also shields the instruments from a flow of high-energy particles produced by solar wind.

The UK-built Solar Orbiter spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida and is now on its way to the Sun. It will also study the link between the sun and the heliosphere by establishing a cause-and-effect relationship of what happens on the sun and the near-Earth environment.

NASA says the Solar Orbiter will pass closer to the sun than the planet Mercury. This spacecraft has 10 equipment installed. "Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star". "I am looking forward to switching on our instrument and can't wait to measure those magnetic fields!"

The change in vision may solve mysteries how the sun spreads charged particles flying outside the solar system and buffeting planets, including the Earth.

Solar Orbiter was made in Europe, along with nine scientific instruments.

Teresa Nieves-Chinchilla is a NASA project scientist for the mission.

It will take the spacecraft about two years to reach its primary orbit. This collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency has become one of the most successful collaborations in space exploration in history! Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. "We're not able to have any realistic predictive capabilities today, but as soon as you get the physics right, then you start being able to develop predictive capabilities".



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