by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Jun 20, 2012
The UK Space Agency has announced a planned 11.5M pound investment for the scientific payloads for Solar Orbiter - the first medium (M-class) mission in the European Space Agency's (ESA) Cosmic Vision programme. The funding is being shared between British institutions for the development of four of the mission's instruments to study the Sun.
Solar Orbiter will discover how the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere - the region of space occupied by the Sun's atmosphere. It will do this by flying to within 0.28AU of the Sun to provide our closest ever view of the Sun. A powerful combination of ten in-situ and remote sensing instruments will feed back data, four of which are being developed in the UK.
This will give us a more detailed picture of the mechanisms of the Sun, from its magnetic field to the solar surface, including the causes of coronal mass ejections and other violent solar activity which can have an effect on Earth.
The UK has been selected as Principal Investigator (PI - science lead) on three instruments and Co-Investigator on a further one of the ten scientific instruments for Solar Orbiter. The UK institutes will be sharing the 11.5M pound UK Space Agency investment to develop their instruments over 5 years, subject to the next Spending Review.
The potential scientific impact and economic return from this mission to the UK is exceptionally high. Astrium Ltd signed a euros 300 million contract with ESA in April, making this is the largest single spacecraft contract from ESA to the UK since Aeolus in 2003.
Dr Chris Castelli, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency: "This is a significant project in the UK, with four of the instruments being developed here as well as Astrium's involvement. The instruments are being produced with a great deal of expertise and will provide exciting new data to further our understanding of the nature of stars and of our small corner of the universe. It represents a great return on UK investment into the ESA Cosmic Vision science programme, and will enable us to maintain our position as a leader in space science within Europe."
The PIs are: Imperial College London for the Magnetometer; the Science Technology Facilities Council's RAL Space leading on the telescope for Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) and UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) for the Plasma Suite and also co-investigator for the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager.
John Zarnecki, Chair of the UK Space Agency's Science Programme Advisory Committee: "This is a very challenging space mission - by going closer than we've ever been to the Sun, it poses big challenges to the scientists and engineers who are going to design the spacecraft and science instruments. But I'm certain that they'll rise to the challenge and I look forward to getting our closest views yet of our star, the Sun."
Read more about Solar Orbiter and the euros 300M contract won earlier this year by Astrium to build the spacecraft: http://www.bis.gov.uk/ukspaceagency/news-and-events/2012/Apr/astrium-awarded-300-million-contract-to-build-the-latest-mission-to-study-the-sun
The four UK led instruments:
Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) - will be a suite of imaging telescopes that will provide images of the hot and cold layers of the solar atmosphere and of the solar corona showing the dynamics in fine detail and providing the link between the solar surface and outer corona. MSSL of the University College London is a Co-Investigator for this instrument.
Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) - is a telescope with a grating spectrograph and two active pixel sensor detectors that will provide images of the solar disk and corona. SPICE will be able to study features both on the surface and out in the corona and to look at the connection between them. RAL Space (based at the Science Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) is a Co-Investigator for this instrument.
Solar Wind Analyser (SWA) - will use three components to measure the different elements of the solar wind and characterise their behaviour under different solar conditions. MSSL of the University College London will lead the development of this instrument suite.
UK Space Agency
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily
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Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jun 15, 2012
During a powerful solar blast on March 7, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the highest-energy light ever associated with an eruption on the sun. The discovery heralds Fermi's new role as a solar observatory, a powerful new tool for understanding solar outbursts during the sun's maximum period of activity. A solar flare is an explosive blast of light and charged particles. Th ... read more
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