The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the successful launch of its Airbus-built Sun-observing satellite Solar Orbiter.

The 1,800kg Solar Orbiter was on board United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V 411 rocket, which lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, US.

After separating from the launcher upper stage in a low-Earth orbit, the New Norcia ground station received signals from the spacecraft.

The $1.5bn Solar Orbiter mission completed all the tests and was recently fitted inside the protective enclosure.

The ESA and Nasa collaborative mission will provide visuals of the Sun’s uncharted polar region.

The orbiter will also study the intensity of radiation and energetic particles released from the Sun, which can impact Earth.

The information will be crucial in understanding and predicting periods of stormy ‘space weather’.

How much of an impact will the COVID-19 outbreak have on the revenue of aerospace companies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Nasa Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said: “Solar Orbiter is going to do amazing things. Combined with the other recently launched Nasa missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star.

“Together with our European partners, we’re entering a new era of heliophysics that will transform the study of the Sun and help make astronauts safer as they travel on Artemis programme missions to the Moon.”

The Solar Orbiter will fly within the orbit of Mercury, up to 42 million kilometres from the Sun.

The spacecraft will leverage gravity-assist flybys of Earth and Venus to enter a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun.

The spacecraft’s heat shield is designed to withstand temperatures of up to 500ºC.