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  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on August 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "ESA gets ready for double Venus flyby", ESA JAXA BepiColumbo, ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, ,   

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) : “ESA gets ready for double Venus flyby” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU)

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)


    BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter flyby – illustration.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US) Solar Orbiter

    Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo are set to make space history with two Venus flybys just 33 hours apart on 9 and 10 August.

    The two spacecraft need the gravitational swingby to help them lose a little orbital energy in order to reach their destinations towards the centre of the Solar System. The double flyby also offers an unprecedented opportunity to study the Venus environment from different locations at same time and, moreover, in locations that are not typically visited by a dedicated planetary orbiter.

    Solar Orbiter, a partnership between ESA and National Aeronautics Space Agency (US), will fly by Venus on 9 August with a closest approach of 7995 km at 04:42 UTC. Throughout its mission it makes repeated gravity assist flybys of Venus to get closer to the Sun, and to change its orbital inclination, boosting it out of the ecliptic plane, to get the best – and first – views of the Sun’s poles.

    BepiColombo, a partnership between ESA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [ (国立研究開発法人宇宙航空研究開発機構](JP) , will fly by Venus at 13:48 UTC on 10 August at an altitude of just 550 km. BepiColombo is on its way to the mysterious innermost planet of the solar system, Mercury. It needs flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury itself, together with the spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system, to help steer into Mercury orbit against the immense gravitational pull of the Sun.

    Visualisation of ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft flying by Venus on 9 August 2021.The spacecraft will make numerous gravity assist flybys at Venus to bring it closer to the Sun and to tilt its orbit in order to observe our star from different perspectives.

    Solar Orbiter’s path around the Sun has been chosen to be ‘in resonance’ with Venus, which means that it will return to the planet’s vicinity every few orbits and can again use the planet’s gravity to alter or tilt its orbit. Initially Solar Orbiter will be confined to the same plane as the planets, but each encounter of Venus will increase its orbital inclination. By 2025 it will make its first solar pass at 17º inclination, increasing to 33º by the end of the decade, bringing even more of the polar regions into direct view. This will result in the spacecraft being able to take the first ever images of the Sun’s polar regions, crucial for understanding how the Sun ‘works’, for investigating the Sun-Earth connection and how we can better predict periods of stormy space weather.
    Solar Orbiter is an international collaboration between ESA and NASA.
    © ESA/ATG medialab

    Photos or it didn’t happen

    It is not possible to take high-resolution imagery of Venus with the science cameras onboard either mission – Solar Orbiter must remain facing the Sun, and the main camera onboard BepiColombo is shielded by the transfer module that will deliver the two planetary orbiters to Mercury. However, two of BepiColombo’s three monitoring cameras will be taking photos around the time of close approach and in the days after as the planet fades from view.

    The cameras provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution, and are positioned on the Mercury Transfer Module such that they also capture the spacecraft’s solar arrays and antennas. During the closest approach Venus will fill the entire field of view, but as the spacecraft changes its orientation the planet will be seen passing behind the spacecraft structural elements.

    The images will be downloaded in batches, one by one, with the first image expected to be available in the evening of 10 August, and the majority on 11 August.

    Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo’s double Venus flyby

    Furthermore, there may be an opportunity for Solar Orbiter’s SoloHI imager to observe the nightside of Venus in the week before closest approach. SoloHI usually takes images of the solar wind – the stream of charged particles constantly released from the Sun – by capturing the light scattered by electrons in the wind.

    It is – unfortunately! – not expected that one spacecraft will be able to image the other. Even at their closest the spacecraft will be more than 575 thousand kilometres apart.

    Multipoint science

    Solar Orbiter has been acquiring data near-constantly since launch in February 2020 with its four in situ instruments that measure the environment around the spacecraft itself. Both Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will collect data on the magnetic and plasma environment of Venus from different locations. At the same time, JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft is in orbit around Venus, creating a unique constellation of datapoints. It will take many months to collate the coordinated flyby measurements and analyse them in a meaningful way.

    The data collected during the flybys will also provide useful inputs to ESA’s future Venus orbiter, EnVision, which was selected earlier this year and will launch to Venus in the 2030s.

    Where to next?

    Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo both have one more flyby this year.

    During the night of 1-2 October BepiColombo will see its destination for the first time, making its first of six flybys of Mercury – with this one from just 200 km distance. The two planetary orbiters will be delivered into Mercury orbit in late 2025, tasked with studying all aspects of this mysterious inner planet from its core to surface processes, magnetic field, and exosphere, to better understand the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star.

    On 27 November, Solar Orbiter will make a final flyby of Earth at 460 km, kicking off the start of its main mission. It will continue to make regular flybys of Venus to progressively increase its orbit inclination to best observe the Sun’s uncharted polar regions, which is key to understanding the Sun’s 11 year activity cycle.

    Solar Orbiter Flyby. Credit: ESA.

    BepiColumbo Flyby

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC (NL) in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA’s space flight programme includes human spaceflight (mainly through participation in the International Space Station program); the launch and operation of uncrewed exploration missions to other planets and the Moon; Earth observation, science and telecommunication; designing launch vehicles; and maintaining a major spaceport, the The Guiana Space Centre [Centre Spatial Guyanais; CSG also called Europe’s Spaceport) at Kourou, French Guiana. The main European launch vehicle Ariane 5 is operated through Arianespace with ESA sharing in the costs of launching and further developing this launch vehicle. The agency is also working with NASA to manufacture the Orion Spacecraft service module that will fly on the Space Launch System.

    The agency’s facilities are distributed among the following centres:

    ESA European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) (NL)in Noordwijk, Netherlands;
    ESA Centre for Earth Observation [ESRIN] (IT) in Frascati, Italy;
    ESA Mission Control ESA European Space Operations Center [ESOC](DE) is in Darmstadt, Germany;
    ESA -European Astronaut Centre [EAC] trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany;
    European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) (UK), a research institute created in 2009, is located in Harwell, England;
    ESA – European Space Astronomy Centre [ESAC] (ES) is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain.
    European Space Agency Science Programme is a long-term programme of space science and space exploration missions.


    After World War II, many European scientists left Western Europe in order to work with the United States. Although the 1950s boom made it possible for Western European countries to invest in research and specifically in space-related activities, Western European scientists realized solely national projects would not be able to compete with the two main superpowers. In 1958, only months after the Sputnik shock, Edoardo Amaldi (Italy) and Pierre Auger (France), two prominent members of the Western European scientific community, met to discuss the foundation of a common Western European space agency. The meeting was attended by scientific representatives from eight countries, including Harrie Massey (United Kingdom).

    The Western European nations decided to have two agencies: one concerned with developing a launch system, ELDO (European Launch Development Organization), and the other the precursor of the European Space Agency, ESRO (European Space Research Organisation). The latter was established on 20 March 1964 by an agreement signed on 14 June 1962. From 1968 to 1972, ESRO launched seven research satellites.

    ESA in its current form was founded with the ESA Convention in 1975, when ESRO was merged with ELDO. ESA had ten founding member states: Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. These signed the ESA Convention in 1975 and deposited the instruments of ratification by 1980, when the convention came into force. During this interval the agency functioned in a de facto fashion. ESA launched its first major scientific mission in 1975, Cos-B, a space probe monitoring gamma-ray emissions in the universe, which was first worked on by ESRO.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Later activities

    ESA collaborated with National Aeronautics Space Agency on the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), the world’s first high-orbit telescope, which was launched in 1978 and operated successfully for 18 years.

    [caption id="attachment_155846" align="alignnone" width="632"] ESA Infrared Space Observatory.

    A number of successful Earth-orbit projects followed, and in 1986 ESA began Giotto, its first deep-space mission, to study the comets Halley and Grigg–Skjellerup. Hipparcos, a star-mapping mission, was launched in 1989 and in the 1990s SOHO, Ulysses and the Hubble Space Telescope were all jointly carried out with NASA. Later scientific missions in cooperation with NASA include the Cassini–Huygens space probe, to which ESA contributed by building the Titan landing module Huygens.

    As the successor of ELDO, ESA has also constructed rockets for scientific and commercial payloads. Ariane 1, launched in 1979, carried mostly commercial payloads into orbit from 1984 onward. The next two versions of the Ariane rocket were intermediate stages in the development of a more advanced launch system, the Ariane 4, which operated between 1988 and 2003 and established ESA as the world leader in commercial space launches in the 1990s. Although the succeeding Ariane 5 experienced a failure on its first flight, it has since firmly established itself within the heavily competitive commercial space launch market with 82 successful launches until 2018. The successor launch vehicle of Ariane 5, the Ariane 6, is under development and is envisioned to enter service in the 2020s.

    The beginning of the new millennium saw ESA become, along with agencies like National Aeronautics Space Agency(US), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation, the Canadian Space Agency(CA) and Roscosmos(RU), one of the major participants in scientific space research. Although ESA had relied on co-operation with NASA in previous decades, especially the 1990s, changed circumstances (such as tough legal restrictions on information sharing by the United States military) led to decisions to rely more on itself and on co-operation with Russia. A 2011 press issue thus stated:

    “Russia is ESA’s first partner in its efforts to ensure long-term access to space. There is a framework agreement between ESA and the government of the Russian Federation on cooperation and partnership in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and cooperation is already underway in two different areas of launcher activity that will bring benefits to both partners.”

    Notable ESA programmes include SMART-1, a probe testing cutting-edge space propulsion technology, the Mars Express and Venus Express missions, as well as the development of the Ariane 5 rocket and its role in the ISS partnership. ESA maintains its scientific and research projects mainly for astronomy-space missions such as Corot, launched on 27 December 2006, a milestone in the search for exoplanets.

    On 21 January 2019, ArianeGroup and Arianespace announced a one-year contract with ESA to study and prepare for a mission to mine the Moon for lunar regolith.


    The treaty establishing the European Space Agency reads:

    The purpose of the Agency shall be to provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems…

    ESA is responsible for setting a unified space and related industrial policy, recommending space objectives to the member states, and integrating national programs like satellite development, into the European program as much as possible.

    Jean-Jacques Dordain – ESA’s Director General (2003–2015) – outlined the European Space Agency’s mission in a 2003 interview:

    “Today space activities have pursued the benefit of citizens, and citizens are asking for a better quality of life on Earth. They want greater security and economic wealth, but they also want to pursue their dreams, to increase their knowledge, and they want younger people to be attracted to the pursuit of science and technology. I think that space can do all of this: it can produce a higher quality of life, better security, more economic wealth, and also fulfill our citizens’ dreams and thirst for knowledge, and attract the young generation. This is the reason space exploration is an integral part of overall space activities. It has always been so, and it will be even more important in the future.”


    According to the ESA website, the activities are:

    Observing the Earth
    Human Spaceflight
    Space Science
    Space Engineering & Technology
    Telecommunications & Integrated Applications
    Preparing for the Future
    Space for Climate


    Copernicus Programme
    Cosmic Vision
    Horizon 2000
    Living Planet Programme


    Every member country must contribute to these programmes:

    Technology Development Element Programme
    Science Core Technology Programme
    General Study Programme
    European Component Initiative


    Depending on their individual choices the countries can contribute to the following programmes, listed according to:

    Earth Observation
    Human Spaceflight and Exploration
    Space Situational Awareness


    ESA has formed partnerships with universities. ESA_LAB@ refers to research laboratories at universities. Currently there are ESA_LAB@

    Technische Universität Darmstadt
    École des hautes études commerciales de Paris (HEC Paris)
    Université de recherche Paris Sciences et Lettres
    University of Central Lancashire

    Membership and contribution to ESA

    By 2015, ESA was an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states. Member states participate to varying degrees in the mandatory (25% of total expenditures in 2008) and optional space programmes (75% of total expenditures in 2008). The 2008 budget amounted to €3.0 billion whilst the 2009 budget amounted to €3.6 billion. The total budget amounted to about €3.7 billion in 2010, €3.99 billion in 2011, €4.02 billion in 2012, €4.28 billion in 2013, €4.10 billion in 2014 and €4.33 billion in 2015. English is the main language within ESA. Additionally, official documents are also provided in German and documents regarding the Spacelab are also provided in Italian. If found appropriate, the agency may conduct its correspondence in any language of a member state.

    Non-full member states
    Since 2016, Slovenia has been an associated member of the ESA.

    Latvia became the second current associated member on 30 June 2020, when the Association Agreement was signed by ESA Director Jan Wörner and the Minister of Education and Science of Latvia, Ilga Šuplinska in Riga. The Saeima ratified it on July 27. Previously associated members were Austria, Norway and Finland, all of which later joined ESA as full members.

    Since 1 January 1979, Canada has had the special status of a Cooperating State within ESA. By virtue of this accord, the Canadian Space Agency takes part in ESA’s deliberative bodies and decision-making and also in ESA’s programmes and activities. Canadian firms can bid for and receive contracts to work on programmes. The accord has a provision ensuring a fair industrial return to Canada. The most recent Cooperation Agreement was signed on 15 December 2010 with a term extending to 2020. For 2014, Canada’s annual assessed contribution to the ESA general budget was €6,059,449 (CAD$8,559,050). For 2017, Canada has increased its annual contribution to €21,600,000 (CAD$30,000,000).


    After the decision of the ESA Council of 21/22 March 2001, the procedure for accession of the European states was detailed as described the document titled The Plan for European Co-operating States (PECS). Nations that want to become a full member of ESA do so in 3 stages. First a Cooperation Agreement is signed between the country and ESA. In this stage, the country has very limited financial responsibilities. If a country wants to co-operate more fully with ESA, it signs a European Cooperating State (ECS) Agreement. The ECS Agreement makes companies based in the country eligible for participation in ESA procurements. The country can also participate in all ESA programmes, except for the Basic Technology Research Programme. While the financial contribution of the country concerned increases, it is still much lower than that of a full member state. The agreement is normally followed by a Plan For European Cooperating State (or PECS Charter). This is a 5-year programme of basic research and development activities aimed at improving the nation’s space industry capacity. At the end of the 5-year period, the country can either begin negotiations to become a full member state or an associated state or sign a new PECS Charter.

    During the Ministerial Meeting in December 2014, ESA ministers approved a resolution calling for discussions to begin with Israel, Australia and South Africa on future association agreements. The ministers noted that “concrete cooperation is at an advanced stage” with these nations and that “prospects for mutual benefits are existing”.

    A separate space exploration strategy resolution calls for further co-operation with the United States, Russia and China on “LEO exploration, including a continuation of ISS cooperation and the development of a robust plan for the coordinated use of space transportation vehicles and systems for exploration purposes, participation in robotic missions for the exploration of the Moon, the robotic exploration of Mars, leading to a broad Mars Sample Return mission in which Europe should be involved as a full partner, and human missions beyond LEO in the longer term.”

    Relationship with the European Union

    The political perspective of the European Union (EU) was to make ESA an agency of the EU by 2014, although this date was not met. The EU member states provide most of ESA’s funding, and they are all either full ESA members or observers.


    At the time ESA was formed, its main goals did not encompass human space flight; rather it considered itself to be primarily a scientific research organisation for uncrewed space exploration in contrast to its American and Soviet counterparts. It is therefore not surprising that the first non-Soviet European in space was not an ESA astronaut on a European space craft; it was Czechoslovak Vladimír Remek who in 1978 became the first non-Soviet or American in space (the first man in space being Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union) – on a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, followed by the Pole Mirosław Hermaszewski and East German Sigmund Jähn in the same year. This Soviet co-operation programme, known as Intercosmos, primarily involved the participation of Eastern bloc countries. In 1982, however, Jean-Loup Chrétien became the first non-Communist Bloc astronaut on a flight to the Soviet Salyut 7 space station.

    Because Chrétien did not officially fly into space as an ESA astronaut, but rather as a member of the French CNES astronaut corps, the German Ulf Merbold is considered the first ESA astronaut to fly into space. He participated in the STS-9 Space Shuttle mission that included the first use of the European-built Spacelab in 1983. STS-9 marked the beginning of an extensive ESA/NASA joint partnership that included dozens of space flights of ESA astronauts in the following years. Some of these missions with Spacelab were fully funded and organizationally and scientifically controlled by ESA (such as two missions by Germany and one by Japan) with European astronauts as full crew members rather than guests on board. Beside paying for Spacelab flights and seats on the shuttles, ESA continued its human space flight co-operation with the Soviet Union and later Russia, including numerous visits to Mir.

    During the latter half of the 1980s, European human space flights changed from being the exception to routine and therefore, in 1990, the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany was established. It selects and trains prospective astronauts and is responsible for the co-ordination with international partners, especially with regard to the International Space Station. As of 2006, the ESA astronaut corps officially included twelve members, including nationals from most large European countries except the United Kingdom.

    In the summer of 2008, ESA started to recruit new astronauts so that final selection would be due in spring 2009. Almost 10,000 people registered as astronaut candidates before registration ended in June 2008. 8,413 fulfilled the initial application criteria. Of the applicants, 918 were chosen to take part in the first stage of psychological testing, which narrowed down the field to 192. After two-stage psychological tests and medical evaluation in early 2009, as well as formal interviews, six new members of the European Astronaut Corps were selected – five men and one woman.

    Cooperation with other countries and organisations

    ESA has signed co-operation agreements with the following states that currently neither plan to integrate as tightly with ESA institutions as Canada, nor envision future membership of ESA: Argentina, Brazil, China, India (for the Chandrayan mission), Russia and Turkey.

    Additionally, ESA has joint projects with the European Union, NASA of the United States and is participating in the International Space Station together with the United States (NASA), Russia and Japan (JAXA).

    European Union
    ESA and EU member states
    ESA-only members
    EU-only members

    ESA is not an agency or body of the European Union (EU), and has non-EU countries (Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) as members. There are however ties between the two, with various agreements in place and being worked on, to define the legal status of ESA with regard to the EU.

    There are common goals between ESA and the EU. ESA has an EU liaison office in Brussels. On certain projects, the EU and ESA co-operate, such as the upcoming Galileo satellite navigation system. Space policy has since December 2009 been an area for voting in the European Council. Under the European Space Policy of 2007, the EU, ESA and its Member States committed themselves to increasing co-ordination of their activities and programmes and to organising their respective roles relating to space.

    The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 reinforces the case for space in Europe and strengthens the role of ESA as an R&D space agency. Article 189 of the Treaty gives the EU a mandate to elaborate a European space policy and take related measures, and provides that the EU should establish appropriate relations with ESA.

    Former Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni, during his tenure as a Member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009, stressed the importance of the European Union as a driving force for space exploration, “…since other players are coming up such as India and China it is becoming ever more important that Europeans can have an independent access to space. We have to invest more into space research and technology in order to have an industry capable of competing with other international players.”

    The first EU-ESA International Conference on Human Space Exploration took place in Prague on 22 and 23 October 2009. A road map which would lead to a common vision and strategic planning in the area of space exploration was discussed. Ministers from all 29 EU and ESA members as well as members of parliament were in attendance.

    National space organisations of member states:

    The Centre National d’Études Spatiales(FR) (CNES) (National Centre for Space Study) is the French government space agency (administratively, a “public establishment of industrial and commercial character”). Its headquarters are in central Paris. CNES is the main participant on the Ariane project. Indeed, CNES designed and tested all Ariane family rockets (mainly from its centre in Évry near Paris)
    The UK Space Agency is a partnership of the UK government departments which are active in space. Through the UK Space Agency, the partners provide delegates to represent the UK on the various ESA governing bodies. Each partner funds its own programme.
    The Italian Space Agency A.S.I. – Agenzia Spaziale Italiana was founded in 1988 to promote, co-ordinate and conduct space activities in Italy. Operating under the Ministry of the Universities and of Scientific and Technological Research, the agency cooperates with numerous entities active in space technology and with the president of the Council of Ministers. Internationally, the ASI provides Italy’s delegation to the Council of the European Space Agency and to its subordinate bodies.
    The German Aerospace Center (DLR)[Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V.] is the national research centre for aviation and space flight of the Federal Republic of Germany and of other member states in the Helmholtz Association. Its extensive research and development projects are included in national and international cooperative programmes. In addition to its research projects, the centre is the assigned space agency of Germany bestowing headquarters of German space flight activities and its associates.
    The Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA)(ES) (National Institute for Aerospace Technique) is a Public Research Organization specialised in aerospace research and technology development in Spain. Among other functions, it serves as a platform for space research and acts as a significant testing facility for the aeronautic and space sector in the country.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(US)

    ESA has a long history of collaboration with NASA. Since ESA’s astronaut corps was formed, the Space Shuttle has been the primary launch vehicle used by ESA’s astronauts to get into space through partnership programmes with NASA. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Spacelab programme was an ESA-NASA joint research programme that had ESA develop and manufacture orbital labs for the Space Shuttle for several flights on which ESA participate with astronauts in experiments.

    In robotic science mission and exploration missions, NASA has been ESA’s main partner. Cassini–Huygens was a joint NASA-ESA mission, along with the Infrared Space Observatory, INTEGRAL, SOHO, and others.

    Also, the Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project of NASA and ESA.

    Future ESA-NASA joint projects include the James Webb Space Telescope and the proposed Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.

    NASA has committed to provide support to ESA’s proposed MarcoPolo-R mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth for further analysis. NASA and ESA will also likely join together for a Mars Sample Return Mission. In October 2020 the ESA entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NASA to work together on the Artemis program, which will provide an orbiting lunar gateway and also accomplish the first manned lunar landing in 50 years, whose team will include the first woman on the Moon.

    Cooperation with other space agencies

    Since China has started to invest more money into space activities, the Chinese Space Agency(CN) has sought international partnerships. ESA is, beside the Russian Space Agency, one of its most important partners. Two space agencies cooperated in the development of the Double Star Mission. In 2017, ESA sent two astronauts to China for two weeks sea survival training with Chinese astronauts in Yantai, Shandong.

    ESA entered into a major joint venture with Russia in the form of the CSTS, the preparation of French Guiana spaceport for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets and other projects. With India, ESA agreed to send instruments into space aboard the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. ESA is also co-operating with Japan, the most notable current project in collaboration with JAXA is the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

    Speaking to reporters at an air show near Moscow in August 2011, ESA head Jean-Jacques Dordain said ESA and Russia’s Roskosmos space agency would “carry out the first flight to Mars together.”

  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on January 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Parker Solar Probe will have company on its next pass by the sun", , ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, NASA STEREO A, On November 29 Parker observed the most powerful flare it had seen in the last three years followed by a CME that ripped past the spacecraft at 1400 kilometers per second., , Solar Orbiter will take the highest-resolution images of the sun ever., , Spacecraft will watch the sun from every angle while a NASA probe swoops in for a closer look., This orbit is the first time that Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter will watch the sun in tandem but not the last.   

    From Science News: “The Parker Solar Probe will have company on its next pass by the sun” 

    From Science News

    January 15, 2021
    Lisa Grossman

    Spacecraft will watch the sun from every angle while a NASA probe swoops in for a closer look.

    The Parker Solar Probe can taste the solar wind, shown in this illustration as straight lines streaming away from the sun. On its next close pass this month, the spacecraft won’t be alone. Credit: NASA.

    The Parker Solar Probe is no stranger to the sun. On January 17, the NASA spacecraft will make its seventh close pass of our star, coming within 14 million kilometers of its scorching surface.

    And this time, Parker will have plenty of company. A lucky celestial lineup means that dozens of other observatories will be trained on the sun at the same time. Together, these telescopes will provide unprecedented views of the sun, helping to solve some of the most enduring mysteries of our star.

    “This next orbit is really an amazing one,” says mission project scientist Nour Raouafi of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

    Chief among the spacecraft that will join the watch party is newcomer Solar Orbiter, which the European Space Agency launched in February 2020 (SN: 2/9/20).

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter.

    As Parker swings by our star this month, Solar Orbiter will be watching from the other side of the sun.

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter annotated.

    “This is partially luck,” solar physicist Timothy Horbury of Imperial College London said December 10 at a news briefing at the virtual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “Nobody planned to have Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter operating together; it’s just come out that way.”

    Working together, the sungazers will tackle long-standing puzzles: how the sun creates and controls the solar wind, why solar activity changes over time and how to predict powerful solar outbursts.

    “I think it genuinely is going to be a revolution,” Horbury said. “We’re all incredibly lucky to be doing this at this moment in time.”

    Working in tandem

    The Parker Solar Probe launched in 2018 and has already had six close encounters with the sun (SN: 7/5/18). During its nearly seven-year mission, the probe will eventually swing within 6 million kilometers of the sun — less than one-seventh the distance of Mercury from the sun — giving Parker’s heavily shielded instruments a better taste of the plasma and charged particles of the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona (SN: 7/31/18).

    Because Parker gets so close, its cameras cannot take direct pictures of the solar surface. Solar Orbiter, though, will get no closer than 42 million kilometers, letting it take the highest-resolution images of the sun ever. The mission’s official science phase won’t begin until November 2021, but the spacecraft has already snapped images revealing tiny “campfire” flares that might help heat the corona (SN: 7/16/20).

    During Parker’s seventh close encounter, which runs January 12–23, Solar Orbiter will observe the sun from a vantage point almost opposite to Parker’s view. Half a dozen other observers will be watching as well, such as ESA’s BepiColombo spacecraft that is on its way to Mercury and NASA’s veteran sunwatcher STEREO-A. Both will flank Parker on either side of the sun. And telescopes on Earth will be watching from a vantage point about 135 million kilometers behind Parker, making a straight line from Earth to the spacecraft to the sun.

    When the Parker Solar Probe makes its next close pass of the sun (shown in the black arc in the center of this diagram), a host of other spacecraft and telescopes on Earth will be watching too. This diagram shows the relative positions during the flyby of the sun, Earth, Parker, Solar Orbiter and two other spacecraft, BepiColombo and STEREO-A. Credit:JHU-APL.

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft.

    ESA/JAXA Bepicolumbo in flight illustration. Artist’s impression of BepiColombo – ESA’s first mission to Mercury. ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) will be operated from ESOC Germany.

    The situation is similar to Parker’s fourth flyby in January 2020, when nearly 50 observatories watched the sun in tandem with the probe, Raouafi says. Those observations led to a special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics with more than 40 articles. One of the results was confirming that there is a region around the sun that is free of dust, which was predicted in 1929. “That was amazing,” Raouafi says. “We want to do a campaign that is that good or even better for this run.”

    In the wind

    At the AGU meeting, researchers presented new results from Parker’s second year of observations. The results deepen the mystery of magnetic kinks called “switchbacks” that Parker observed in the solar wind, a constant stream of charged particles flowing away from the sun (SN: 12/4/19), Raouafi says.

    Some observations support the idea that the kinks originate at the base of the corona and are carried past Parker and beyond, like a wave traveling along a jump rope. Others suggest the switchbacks are created by turbulence within the solar wind itself.

    Figuring out which idea is correct could help pinpoint how the sun produces the solar wind in the first place. “These [switchbacks] could be the key to explaining how the solar wind is heated and accelerated,” Raouafi said in a talk recorded for AGU.

    Meanwhile, Solar Orbiter’s zoomed-in images plus simultaneous measurements of the solar wind may allow scientists to trace the wind’s energetic particles back to their birthplaces on the sun’s surface. Campfire flares — the “nanoflares” spotted by Solar Orbiter — might even explain the switchbacks, Horbury says.

    “The goal is to connect tiny transient events like nanoflares to changes in the solar wind,” Horbury said in the news briefing.

    Waking up with the sun

    Parker and Solar Orbiter couldn’t have arrived at a better time. “The sun has been very quiet, in a deep solar minimum for the last several years,” Horbury said. “But the sun is just beginning to wake up now.”

    Both spacecraft have seen solar activity building over the last year. During its sleepy period, the sun displays fewer sunspots and outbursts such as flares and coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. But as it wakes up, those signs of increasing magnetic activity become more common and more energetic.

    On November 29, Parker observed the most powerful flare it had seen in the last three years, followed by a CME that ripped past the spacecraft at 1,400 kilometers per second.

    “We got so much data from that,” Raouafi says. More CMEs should pass Parker when it’s even closer to the sun, which will tell scientists about how these outbursts are launched.

    Solar Orbiter caught an outburst too. On April 19, a CME passed the spacecraft about 20 hours before its effects arrived at Earth. With existing spacecraft, observers on Earth get only about 40 minutes warning before a CME arrives.

    Solar Orbiter detected a big burst of plasma called a coronal mass ejection in April, almost a day before signs of the eruption reached Earth. Observers on Earth typically get just 40 minutes of warning before such an eruption arrives. Credit: ESA.

    “We can see how that CME evolves as it travels away from the sun in a way we’ve never been able to do before,” Horbury said.

    Strong CMEs can knock out satellites and power grids, so having as much forewarning as possible is important. A future spacecraft at Solar Orbiter’s distance from the sun could help give that warning.

    Looking forward

    This orbit is the first time that Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter will watch the sun in tandem, but not the last. “There will be plenty of opportunities like this one,” Raouafi says.

    He’s looking forward to one opportunity in particular: the solar eclipse of 2024. On April 8, 2024, a total eclipse will cross North America from Mexico to Newfoundland. Solar scientists plan to make observations from all along the path of totality, similar to how they watched the total eclipse of 2017.

    During the eclipse, the Parker Solar Probe will be on its second-closest orbit, between 7 million and 8 million kilometers from the sun. Parker and Solar Orbiter will be “almost on top of each other,” Raouafi says — both spacecraft will be together off to one side of the sun as seen from Earth. Whatever prominences and other shapes in the corona are visible to observers on Earth will be headed right at the spacecraft.

    “They will be flying through the structure we will see from Earth during the solar eclipse,” Raouafi says. The combined observations will tell scientists how features on the sun evolve with time.

    “I think it is a new era,” Horbury said. “The next few years is going to be a step change in the way we see the sun.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on September 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Nanojets; nanoflares; & magnetic reconnection: the quest to solve the coronal heating problem", ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, For the first time scientists have observed nanojets- bright thin lights traveling perpendicular to the magnetic field lines of the Sun that are the telltale signature of nanoflares., If the solar surface is 5500℃ how can the solar atmosphere (the corona) be between 1 million and 10 million degrees C?, JAXA Hinode observatory of Japan Europe and NASA., NASA developed the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft., , ,   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Nanojets, nanoflares, & magnetic reconnection: the quest to solve the coronal heating problem” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    September 22, 2020
    Chris Gebhardt


    It’s one of the most baffling problems in astrophysics. If the solar surface is 5,500℃, how can the solar atmosphere (the corona) be between 1 million and 10 million degrees C?

    For the first time, scientists have observed nanojets, bright thin lights traveling perpendicular to the magnetic field lines of the Sun that are the telltale signature of nanoflares: localized, rapid heating events of the corona.

    The issue of coronal heating was first identified by astrophysicists in the 1940s. Since then, numerous hypotheses have been put forth to explain how the Sun’s atmosphere is many times hotter than its surface.

    One such hypothesis put forward by Peter Gold and developed by Eugene Parker (for whom the Parker Solar Probe is named) is nanoflares, periodic small-scale heating events of the corona.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    But a fundamental problem with this hypothesis — and others — was not being able to directly observe the complex physical processes at work in the corona.

    Despite lacking a way to see the event, scientific models showed that a faint, hot emission from a nanoflare would be detectable and measurable.

    To help study the corona in more detail, NASA developed the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft to determine how the corona is heated and directly measure and observe the processes taking place at the transition point between the solar surface and corona.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft.

    Built by Lockheed Martin, the 183 kg solar observatory was launched on 28 June 2013 (UTC) onboard a now-Northrop Grumman Pegasus-XL rocket off the coast of California.

    ScienceCasts: The Mystery of Coronal Heating.

    Just over nine months later, it observed the event that led to yesterday’s nanojet discovery and coronal heating announcement published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

    On 3 April 2014, IRIS observed a coronal rain event — when streams of cool plasma fall from the corona back toward the Sun’s surface.

    During a period of 15 minutes, the portion of the corona under observation transitioned from a region filled with cool plasma to a place millions of degrees in temperature.

    In examining the data obtained by IRIS, a team of international researchers led by Dr. Patrick Antolin of Northumbria University, observed bright jets near the end of the coronal rain event.

    These flashes were streams of heated plasma traveling so fast they appeared as bright thin lines moving sideways through the magnetic field lines.

    Those flashes are nanojets — the predicted proof of nanoflares.

    “From coordinated multi-band high-resolution observations we discovered evidence of very fast and explosive nanojets, the tell-tale signature of reconnection-based nanoflares resulting in coronal heating,” said Dr. Antolin.

    The normally smooth magnetic field lines of the Sun can become tangled and woven together… and then violently snap back into their previously smooth selves. That snap-back process is called reconnection, and it converts the energy stored in the solar magnetic field into motion in the plasma environment of the corona.

    The localized plasma motion is quickly stopped by the surrounding plasma’s viscosity and turbulence in such a way that the motion (energy) is converted into heat — raising the localized coronal temperature.

    NASA Satellites Spot Nanojets On Sun.
    A faint, hot emission (the observable nanojet) from this small heating event escapes and travels perpendicular to the magnetic field lines.

    In and of itself, a small event like that would not explain the coronal heating problem. But one magnetic reconnection event triggers another which triggers another… leading to a cascading series of reconnections and nanoflares and detectable nanojets.

    This kind of cascading event is exactly what was observed by IRIS in the form of a “nanojet storm” during the same 15 minute period in April 2014 when the under-observation portion of the corona suddenly heated from a cool plasma region to a millions of degrees environment.

    With these observations in hand, there was a strong link between nanojets, nanoflares, and magnetic reconnection as a coronal heating mechanism. But more evidence was needed.

    The international team of researchers then coordinated with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Hinode observatory of Japan, Europe, and NASA to obtain a full view of the Sun to confirm their nanojets detection and assess nanojet effects on the corona.


    JAXA/NASA HINODE spacecraft.

    Over the next several years, the team utilized advanced, state-of-the-art simulations to recreate what they saw during the coronal heating event of April 2014.

    Using all of the collected data, the models showed nanojets are a signature of magnetic reconnection and nanoflares and that the events do contribute to coronal heating.

    “Using state-of-the-art numerical simulations, we have demonstrated that the nanojet is a consequence of the slingshot effect from the magnetically tensed, curved magnetic field lines reconnecting at small angles,” noted Dr. Antolin. “Nanojets are therefore the key signature to look for reconnection-based coronal heating in action.”


    In announcing the nanojet discovery and evidence for coronal heating via magnetic reconnection and nanoflares, Dr. Antolin and his team were quick to note that additional observations and studies are needed to establish how frequent nanoflare activity is throughout the corona and exactly how much of the total energy for heating the corona those events provide.

    They also caution, as many astrophysicists do, that a singular explanation for coronal heating is unlikely, and that the large up swing in temperatures seen in the solar atmosphere is likely the result of several complex and overlapping processes.

    “The solar corona is very diverse, so it is likely there are many heating mechanisms,” said Dr. Antolin. “In active regions, the most energy demanding regions, [magnetic reconnection] may dominate because it releases a lot of energy.”

    IRIS is not the only mission currently seeking to unlock the mysteries of the corona.

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, launched in August 2018, is the first spacecraft to directly fly into and study the corona from the inside.

    Conversely, the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, launched in February 2020, will aid in the investigation of coronal heating by seeking to understand how and where the Sun’s magnetic field forms in the corona.

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction.

    See the full article here .


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    NASA Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

  • richardmitnick 10:15 am on February 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, ,   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “First Solar Orbiter instrument sends measurements” 

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    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    United space in Europe


    Daniel Müller
    ESA Solar Orbiter Project Scientist
    Email: daniel.mueller@esa.int

    Yannis Zouganelis
    ESA Solar Orbiter Deputy Project Scientist
    Email: yannis.zouganelis@esa.int

    ESA Media Relations
    Email: media@esa.int


    First measurements by a Solar Orbiter science instrument reached the ground on Thursday 13 February providing a confirmation to the international science teams that the magnetometer on board is in good health following a successful deployment of the spacecraft’s instrument boom.

    Solar Orbiter, ESA’s new Sun-exploring spacecraft, launched on Monday 10 February.

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction

    It carries ten scientific instruments, four of which measure properties of the environment around the spacecraft, especially electromagnetic characteristics of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles flowing from the Sun. Three of these ‘in situ’ instruments have sensors located on the 4.4 m-long boom.

    “We measure magnetic fields thousands of times smaller than those we are familiar with on Earth,” says Tim Horbury of Imperial College London, Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer instrument (MAG). “Even currents in electrical wires make magnetic fields far larger than what we need to measure. That’s why our sensors are on a boom, to keep them away from all the electrical activity inside the spacecraft.”

    Observing magnetic field as boom deploys.

    Solar Orbiter boom deployment and first magnetic field measurements.

    Ground controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, switched on the magnetometer’s two sensors (one near the end of the boom and the other close to the spacecraft) about 21 hours after liftoff. The instrument recorded data before, during and after the boom’s deployment, allowing the scientists to understand the influence of the spacecraft on measurements in the space environment.

    “The data we received shows how the magnetic field decreases from the vicinity of the spacecraft to where the instruments are actually deployed,” adds Tim. “This is an independent confirmation that the boom actually deployed and that the instruments will, indeed, provide accurate scientific measurements in the future.”

    As the titanium/carbon-fibre boom stretched out over an overall 30-minute period on Wednesday, almost three days after liftoff, the scientists could observe the level of the magnetic field decrease by about one order of magnitude. While at the beginning they saw mostly the magnetic field of the spacecraft, at the end of the procedure, they got the first glimpse of the significantly weaker magnetic field in the surrounding environment.

    Solar Orbiter carries ten instruments, some of which consist of multiple instrument packages. Three of the spacecraft’s four ‘in situ’ instruments, which measure the environment in the vicinity of the spacecraft, are located on Solar Orbiter’s 4.4 m boom.

    “Measuring before, during, and after the boom deployment helps us to identify and characterise signals that are not linked to the solar wind, such as perturbations coming from the spacecraft platform and other instruments,” says Matthieu Kretzschmar, of Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l’Environnement et de l’Espace in Orleans, France, Lead Co-investigator behind another sensor located on the boom, the high frequency magnetometer of the Radio and Plasma Waves instrument (RPW) instrument.

    “The spacecraft underwent extensive testing on ground to measure its magnetic properties in a special simulation facility, but we couldn’t fully test this aspect until now, in space, because the test equipment usually prevents us from reaching the needed very low level of magnetic field fluctuations,” he adds.

    Next, the instruments will have to be calibrated before true science can begin.

    Warming up for science

    Solar Orbiter launch to the Sun. Solar Orbiter’s journey to the Sun as it prepares to commence its ground-breaking mission.

    “Until the end of April, we will be gradually turning on the in-situ instruments and checking whether they are working correctly,” says Yannis Zouganelis, ESA’s deputy project scientist for the Solar Orbiter mission. “By the end of April, we will have a better idea of the performance of the instruments and hopefully start collecting first scientific data in mid-May.”

    In addition to the instrument boom, the deployments of three antennas of the RPW instrument, which will study characteristics of electromagnetic and electrostatic waves in the solar wind, were successfully completed in the early hours of Thursday 13 February. The data of these specific deployments still need to be analysed.

    In addition to the four in situ instruments, Solar Orbiter carries six remote-sensing instruments, essentially telescopes, that will be imaging the surface of the Sun at various wavelengths, obtaining the closest ever views of our parent star.

    “The remote-sensing instruments will be commissioned in the coming months, and we look forward to testing them further in June, when Solar Orbiter gets nearer to the Sun,” Yannis adds.

    Unravelling the Sun’s mysteries

    The combination of both sets of instruments will allow scientists to link what happens on the Sun to the phenomena measured in the solar wind, enabling them to tackle mysteries such as the 11-year cycle of solar activity, the generation of the Sun’s magnetic field and how solar wind particles are accelerated to high energies.

    “The ten instruments onboard our mission will be playing together like instruments in an orchestra,” says ESA Solar Orbiter project scientist Daniel Müller. “We have just started the rehearsal, and one by one, additional instruments will join. Once we are complete, in a few months’ time, we will be listening to the symphony of the Sun.”

    Notes for editors

    Solar Orbiter is an ESA-led mission with strong NASA participation. The prime contractor is Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, UK. Solar Orbiter is the first ‘medium’-class mission implemented in the Cosmic Vision 2015-25 programme, the current planning cycle for ESA’s space science missions.

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on February 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Five things we’re going to learn from Europe’s Solar Orbiter mission", , , ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, , , NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus, ,   

    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine: “Five things we’re going to learn from Europe’s Solar Orbiter mission” 


    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction

    07 February 2020
    Jonathan O’Callaghan

    At 23.03 (local time) on Sunday 9 February, Europe’s newest mission to study the sun is set to lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US. Called Solar Orbiter, this European Space Agency (ESA) mission will travel to within the orbit of planet Mercury to study the sun like never before, returning stunning new images of its surface.

    Equipped with instruments and cameras, the decade-long mission is set to provide scientists with key information in their ongoing solar research. We spoke to three solar physicists about what the mission might teach us and the five unanswered questions about the sun it might finally help us solve.

    1. When solar eruptions are heading our way

    Solar Orbiter will reach a minimum distance of 0.28% of the Earth-sun distance throughout the course of its mission, which could last the rest of the 2020s. No other mission will have come closer to the sun, save for NASA’s ongoing Parker Solar Probe mission, which will reach just 0.04 times the Earth-sun distance.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker

    Dr Emilia Kilpua from the University of Helsinki in Finland is the coordinator of a project called SolMAG, which is studying eruptions of plasma from the sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

    Coronal mass ejections – NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center-SDO


    She says this proximity, and a suite of cameras that Parker Solar Probe lacks, will give Solar Orbiter the chance to gather data that is significantly better than any spacecraft before it, helping us monitor CMEs.

    ‘One of the great things about Solar Orbiter is that it will cover a lot of different distances, so we can really capture these coronal mass ejections when they are evolving from the sun to Earth,’ she said. CMEs can cause space weather events on Earth, interfering with our satellites, so this could give us a better early-warning system for when they are heading our way.

    2. Why the sun blows a supersonic wind

    One of the major unanswered questions about the sun concerns its outer atmosphere, known as its corona. ‘It’s heated to (more than) a million degrees, and we currently don’t know why it’s so hot,’ said Dr Alexis Rouillard from the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, the coordinator of a project studying solar wind called SLOW_SOURCE. ‘It’s (more than) 200 times the temperature of the surface of the sun.’

    ESA China Double Star mission continuous interaction between particles in the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic shield 2003-2007

    ESA China Smile solar wind and Earth’s magnetic shield – the magnetosphere spacecraft depiction

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    A consequence of this hot corona is that the sun’s atmosphere cannot be contained by its gravity, so it has a constant wind of particles blowing out into space, known as solar wind.

    This artist’s rendering shows a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet’s upper atmosphere. NASA/GSFC

    This wind blows at more than 250km per second, up to speeds of 800km per second, and we currently do not know how that wind is pushed outwards to supersonic speeds.

    Dr Rouillard is hoping to study the slower solar wind using Solar Orbiter, which may help us explain how stars like the sun create supersonic winds. “By getting closer to the sun we collect more (pristine) particles, he said. “Solar Orbiter will provide unprecedented measurements of the solar wind composition. (And) we will be able to develop models for how the wind (is pushed out) into space.”

    3. What its poles look like

    During the course of its mission, Solar Orbiter will make repeated encounters with the planet Venus. Each time it does, the angle of the spacecraft’s orbit will be slightly raised until it rises above the planets. If the mission is extended as hoped to 2030, it will reach an inclination of 33 degrees – giving us our first ever views of the sun’s poles.

    Aside from being fascinating, there will be some important science that can be done here. By measuring the sun’s magnetic fields at the poles, scientists hope to get a better understanding of how and why the sun goes through 11-year cycles of activity, culminating in a flip of its magnetic poles. They are set to flip again in the mid-2020s.

    ‘By understanding how the magnetic fields are distributed and evolve in these polar regions, we gain a new insight on the cycles that the sun is going through,’ said Dr Rouillard. ‘Every 11 years, the sun goes from a minimum activity state to a maximum activity state. By measuring from high latitudes, it will provide us with new insights on the cyclic evolution of (the sun’s) magnetic fields.’

    4. Why it has polar ‘crowns’

    Occasionally the sun erupts huge arm-like loops of material from its surface, which are known as prominences. They extend from its surface into the corona, but their formation is not quite understood. Solar Orbiter, however, will give us our most detailed look at them yet.

    ‘We’re going to have very intricate views of some of these active regions and their associated prominences,’ says Professor Rony Keppens from KU Leuven in Belgium, coordinator of a project called PROMINENT which is studying solar prominences. ‘It’s going to be possible to have more than several images per second. That means some of the dynamics that had not been seen before now are going to be visualised for the first time.’

    Some of the sun’s largest prominences come from near its poles, so by raising its inclination Solar Orbiter will give us a unique look at these phenomena. ‘They’re called polar crown prominences, because they are like crowns on the head of the sun,’ said Prof. Keppens. ‘They encircle the polar regions and they live for very long, weeks or months on end. The fact that Solar Orbiter is going to have first-hand views of the polar regions is going to be exciting, especially for studies of prominences.’

    5. How it controls the solar system

    By studying the sun with Solar Orbiter, scientists hope to better understand how its eruptions travel out into the solar system, creating a bubble of activity around the sun in our galaxy known as the heliosphere.

    NASA Heliosphere

    This can of course create space weather here on Earth, so studying it is important for our own planet.

    ‘One of the ideas we have is to take measurements of the solar magnetic field in active regions in the equatorial belt of the sun,’ said Professor Keppens. ‘We’re going to extrapolate that data into the corona, and then use simulations to try and mimic how some of these eruptions happen and progress out into the heliosphere.’

    Thus, Solar Orbiter will not just give us a better understanding of the sun itself, but also how it affects planets like Earth too. Alongside the first-ever images of the poles and the closest-ever images of its surface, Solar Orbiter will give us an unprecedented understanding of how the star we call home really works.

    The research in this article is funded by the European Research Council. Sharing encouraged.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:01 pm on February 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, ,   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “Solar Orbiter operations simulations” Video” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    United space in Europe

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction

    ESA’s Solar Orbiter is getting ready for its launch on an Atlas V rocket provided by NASA and operated by United Launch Alliance from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

    Once in space, and over the course of several years, the spacecraft will repeatedly use the gravity of Venus and Earth to raise its orbit above the poles of the Sun, providing new perspectives on our star, including the first images of the Sun’s polar regions.

    All these operations will be controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Germany, where a dedicated team is currently working on simulations of the first moments in orbit, after separation from the launcher, but also all the delicate manoeuvres of the journey that will make Solar Orbiter mission possible.

    The film contains soundbites by Sylvain Lodiot, Spacecraft Operations Manager, Solar Orbiter (English A-roll, French B-roll); and José Manuel Sánchez Pérez, Mission Analyst, Solar Orbiter (English A-roll, English and Spanish B-roll).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:11 pm on January 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, ,   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “New Mission Will Take 1st Peek at Sun’s Poles” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction

    Jan. 27, 2020

    By Miles Hatfield
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    A new spacecraft is journeying to the Sun to snap the first pictures of the Sun’s north and south poles.

    Solar Orbiter, a collaboration between the European Space Agency, or ESA, and NASA, will have its first opportunity to launch from Cape Canaveral on Feb. 7, 2020, at 11:15 p.m. EST. Launching on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the spacecraft will use Venus’s and Earth’s gravity to swing itself out of the ecliptic plane — the swath of space, roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator, where all planets orbit. From there, Solar Orbiter’s bird’s eye view will give it the first-ever look at the Sun’s poles.

    “Up until Solar Orbiter, all solar imaging instruments have been within the ecliptic plane or very close to it,” said Russell Howard, space scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. and principal investigator for one of Solar Orbiter’s ten instruments. “Now, we’ll be able to look down on the Sun from above.”

    “It will be terra incognita,” said Daniel Müller, ESA project scientist for the mission at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. “This is really exploratory science.”

    The Sun plays a central role in shaping space around us. Its massive magnetic field stretches far beyond Pluto, paving a superhighway for charged solar particles known as the solar wind. When bursts of solar wind hit Earth, they can spark space weather storms that interfere with our GPS and communications satellites — at their worst, they can even threaten astronauts.

    To prepare for arriving solar storms, scientists monitor the Sun’s magnetic field. But their techniques work best with a straight-on view; the steeper the viewing angle, the noisier the data. The sidelong glimpse we get of the Sun’s poles from within the ecliptic plane leaves major gaps in the data.

    “The poles are particularly important for us to be able to model more accurately,” said Holly Gilbert, NASA project scientist for the mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “For forecasting space weather events, we need a pretty accurate model of the global magnetic field of the Sun.”

    The Sun’s poles may also explain centuries-old observations. In 1843, German astronomer Samuel Heinrich Schwabe discovered that the number of sunspots — dark blotches on the Sun’s surface marking strong magnetic fields — waxes and wanes in a repeating pattern. Today, we know it as the approximately-11-year solar cycle in which the Sun transitions between solar maximum, when sunspots proliferate and the Sun is active and turbulent, and solar minimum, when they’re fewer and it’s calmer. “But we don’t understand why it’s 11 years, or why some solar maximums are stronger than others,” Gilbert said. Observing the changing magnetic fields of the poles could offer an answer.

    The only prior spacecraft to fly over the Sun’s poles was also a joint ESA/NASA venture. Launched in 1990, the Ulysses spacecraft made three passes around our star before it was decommissioned in 2009.

    NASA/ESA Ulysses

    But Ulysses never got closer than Earth-distance to the Sun, and only carried what’s known as in situ instruments — like the sense of touch, they measure the space environment immediately around the spacecraft. Solar Orbiter, on the other hand, will pass inside the orbit of Mercury carrying four in situ instruments and six remote-sensing imagers, which see the Sun from afar. “We are going to be able to map what we ‘touch’ with the in situ instruments and what we ‘see’ with remote sensing,” said Teresa Nieves-Chinchilla, NASA deputy project scientist for the mission.

    After years of technology development, it will be the closest any Sun-facing cameras have ever gotten to the Sun. “You can’t really get much closer than Solar Orbiter is going and still look at the Sun,” Müller said.

    Overview of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng

    Over the mission’s seven year lifetime, Solar Orbiter will reach an inclination of 24 degrees above the Sun’s equator, increasing to 33 degrees with an additional three years of extended mission operations. At closest approach the spacecraft will pass within 26 million miles of the Sun.

    To beat the heat, Solar Orbiter has a custom-designed titanium heat shield with a calcium phosphate coating that withstands temperatures over 900 degrees Fahrenheit — thirteen times the solar heating faced by spacecraft in Earth orbit. Five of the remote-sensing instruments look at the Sun through peepholes in that heat shield; one observes the solar wind out to the side.

    Solar Orbiter will be NASA’s second major mission to the inner solar system in recent years, following on August 2018’s launch of Parker Solar Probe. Parker has completed four close solar passes and will fly within four million miles of the Sun at closest approach.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker

    The two spacecraft will work together: As Parker samples solar particles up close, Solar Orbiter will capture imagery from farther away, contextualizing the observations. The two spacecraft will also occasionally align to measure the same magnetic field lines or streams of solar wind at different times.

    “We are learning a lot with Parker, and adding Solar Orbiter to the equation will only bring even more knowledge,” said Nieves-Chinchilla.

    Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between the European Space Agency and NASA. ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands manages the development effort. The European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Germany will operate Solar Orbiter after launch. Solar Orbiter was built by Airbus Defense and Space, and contains 10 instruments: nine provided by ESA member states and ESA. NASA provided one instrument suite, SoloHI and provided detectors and hardware for three other instruments.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA/Goddard Campus

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