PROBA is a space program managed by ESA for the in-orbit demonstration of platform and payload [+]
SOLar Orbiter mission (SOLO)
- Start date:
The goal of the Solar Orbiter mission, developed jointly by the ESA and NASA, is to study the sun and magnetic activity in the heliosphere; it will able to obtain unique information which will help to understand how this star functions and even to predict its behaviour.
Its objectives are to determine the properties, dynamics and interactions between the solar plasma, the magnetic fields and the particles in the heliosphere around the sun; to investigate the relationship between the sun's surface, corona and inner heliosphere; to explore the energetic particles, dynamics and fine-scale structure of the sun's magnetised atmosphere at all altitudes; and to probe the solar dynamo by observing the star's higher latitudes and the movements of its seismic waves.
Solar Orbiter has been designed to carry a large payload of scientific instruments to the region close to the sun. In fact, it will be the first satellite to provide close-up views of the sun's polar regions, which are difficult to see from the Earth, providing images from latitudes greater than 25 degrees. For a few days, it will fall in with the sun’s rotation around its axis, allowing the development of a solar storm to be observed for a prolonged period from the same perspective. It will also provide data from the side of the sun not visible from the Earth.
The intense radiation and high temperatures to which the equipment will be exposed has posed a number of technical and technological challenges in the satellite's development. The equipment positioned on the probe's exterior: when the satellite reaches its orbit’s closest point to the sun, it will need to withstand solar radiation of 17,000 Watts per square meter, and the external equipment will reach operating temperatures in the 400°C range. At the orbit’s farthest point from the sun, the satellite will experience temperatures under –100°C. This is true for the communication antenna, whose subsystem will be provided by SENER. This subsystem includes a high-gain swivelling reflector, the orbiter's mid-gain swivelling antenna and its two low-gain antennas. For the high- and mid-gain antennas, SENER will also be responsible for the separation booms, the deployment and pointing mechanisms, the thermal hardware and the control electronics.
SENER developments in Solar Orbiter
The ESA’s mission to the sun is the largest space contract ever awarded to SENER, which is currently working in parallel on five different contracts: the antennae subsystem, the feed-through filter subsystem, the boom instrument, and the EPD and So-Phi scientific instruments.
SENER has been entrusted with one of the largest contracts for the satellite; the communications antenna subsystem. The antenna subsystem includes a high-gain steerable reflector, the orbiter’s mid-gain steerable antenna and its two low-gain antennas. The high-gain antenna is the satellite’s main antenna, used for sending all of the scientific data it gathers to Earth. The mid-gain antenna will be used as a back-up. Lastly, SENER will supply the two low-gain antennas with semi-omnidirectional coverage, which will keep the satellite in permanent contact with Earth even when it has lost its orientation and none of the other antennas can be oriented towards the Earth.
The instrument Boom
SENER is in charge of the Instrument Boom subsystem, which consists of a retractable boom carrying four instruments that are highly sensitive to magnetic fields. The boom acts to move the instruments away from the electromagnetic disturbances generated by the satellite’s equipment while it is operating.
Feed throughs subsystem
SENER is also responsible for the feed troughs subsystem: through-wall filters that provide the satellite with non-hermetic protective covering for its remote detection instruments.
The EPD instrument
SENER is participating on two of the on board scientific instruments. One of them is the EPD (Energetic Particle Detector), which will analyze high energy particles and whose research was mainly conducted by the University of Alcalá (Spain). SENER is providing the systems engineering, quality control and electronic, mechanical and thermal engineering and software consulting for the university.
The SO-PHI instrument
The second Solar Orbiter’s scientific instrument on which SENER is participating is the So-Phi: a super high performance camera for taking high-resolution pictures and full-disk measurements of the photospheric magnetic field and line-of-sight velocity, as well as the continuum intensity in the visible wavelength range. The accuracy and stability of the velocity maps obtained by So-Phi will make helioseismic investigations of the solar interior possible.The IAA (Instituto Astrofísico de Andalucía), in Spain, is in charge of the So-Phi instrument, and SENER is responsible for the system engineering for the project, in addition to conducting its quality control and building and testing all of the e-units and the correlator camera (CTC).
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