17 February 2020
ESA's Solar Orbiter probe, which uses Portuguese technology, was launched last week and the first phase has passed successfully.
Last Thursday, 13th February, the first 83 (critical) hours of Solar Orbiter’s unique mission were successfully completed.
“This initial phase is like the birth of a child”, says director of operations Andrea Accomazzo, to describe the difficulty of the first moments of this exciting, and challenging, mission by ESA and NASA. “Engineers want to be sure that the spacecraft can survive on its own in its new environment – feed of its solar arrays, be able to communicate with the Earth and be able to control its orientation in space”, he adds.
After a thunderous launch on Monday, Solar Orbiter headed southeast from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, over the South Atlantic before being released into space.
With portuguese technology inserted in the probe, from the companies Active Space Technologies and Critical Software, this joint mission of ESA and NADA has the main goal to study the Sun within a totally new and close perspective.
Through an extremely complex orbit, it will be possible to visualize the Sun’s poles. At its maximum proximity, Solar Orbiter will reach about 42 million km from the central star of our system, which means closer than Mercury and just over a quarter of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, which will be closer than any European probe in history.
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