Dr Georgios Nicolaou, member of the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation (CSEO) talked to CNA about his role, as well as the importance of this mission, which will last around 10 years after launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 9 February. On Monday, the European Space Agency and NASA launched the two-ton Solar Orbiter toward the sun.
While Solar Orbiter won't venture close enough to penetrate the sun's corona, or crown-like outer atmosphere, like Parker, it will maneuver into a unique out-of-plane orbit that will take it over both poles, never photographed before. The spacecraft was developed by Airbus Defence and Space.More news: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slams White House’s budget proposal
Highlights from the preparation and liftoff of ESA's Sun-exploring mission Solar Orbiter.
The spacecraft is a part of the Parker Solar Probe mission.
At its closest approach, Solar Orbiter will come within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) of the sun, well within the orbit of Mercury.
Why it matters: The mechanisms that govern the solar wind, the Sun's 11-year cycle and magnetic fields are still largely a mystery. They're covered in coronal holes, cooler stretches where the fast solar wind comes gushing from.More news: Game of Thrones fame Sophie Turner pregnant with her first child
"We are learning a lot with Parker, and adding Solar Orbiter to the equation will only bring even more knowledge", said Teresa Nieves-Chinchilla, NASA deputy project scientist for the mission.
The fourth and final suite, Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation, or SWEAP, is led by principal investigator Professor Justin Kasper of the University of MI and chiefly built and jointly operated by the Space Sciences Laboratory in Berkeley and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.
To protect the sensitive instruments from the sun's blistering heat, engineers devised a heat shield with an outer black coating made of burned bone charcoal similar to what was used in prehistoric cave paintings. "I think we're going to succeed".
Four of the instruments are in situ, which can act like a way of "touching" the environment around the spacecraft, while the other six provide what is called remote sensing. From there, the spacecraft will see how these regions change along with the sun's magnetic field changes that would occur sometime in the middle of this decade. They're hubs for the sun's magnetic field, flipping polarity every 11 years.More news: Londoner with coronavirus now cleared, risk Ontario-wide 'remains low'
"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.