Solar Orbiter sets off to study the sun

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The Airbus-built Solar Orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 23:03 local time on Sunday, February 9, to study the sun.

The European Space Agency (ESA) mission will study the sun to improve our understanding of how it creates the heliosphere.

It has 10 in situ and remote sensing instruments used to take photographs and spectra, and collect data on solar particles, the solar wind, solar flares and the Sun’s magnetic field.

Ian Walters, Airbus’s program manager for the Solar Orbiter, said, “Today’s launch is a fantastic success for all the teams across Europe and America who have made this mission happen. We now look forward to the exciting discoveries that Solar Orbiter will make as it looks directly at the sun.”

The Solar Orbiter will use gravity assist maneuvers around Venus for elliptical operational orbit, approaching the sun as close as 42 million kilometers.

The UK-built satellite will endure temperatures exceeding 500°C.

Its heat shield is covered in a special heat-emitting coating called SolarBlack to protect the spacecraft behind the shield from the sun’s extreme heat.

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