UK & World News
Hot Stuff: UK Spacecraft To Fly Up To The Sun
A British firm has been chosen to lead the production of a spacecraft designed to get closer to the Sun than any other craft has before.
Astrium UK was awarded the £245m Solar Orbiter contract by the European Space Agency to build a craft that will perform close-up observations of the sun over a seven-year mission.
The SolO will study the Sun in detail and its effects on the solar system, with the aim to help scientists understand the causes of space weather.
At its closest point, Solar Orbiter will be closer to the sun than the planet Mercury, at a distance of 0.28 astronomical units (26 million miles), in an orbit that takes it out of the ecliptic plane.
From here, it can perform long-duration observations of the same region of the Sun's surface, and investigate its polar regions.
It will be one of the closest approaches to our star by any spacecraft.
While the Sun is the source of energy for almost all life on Earth, it can also cause major problems for satellites and Earth-based systems.
It releases bursts of high-energy particles which can disrupt electrical power distribution systems, causing computers to crash, satellites to malfunction and astronauts to be put in danger.
Solar Orbiter will provide scientific data to understand better the mechanisms on the sun that cause these violent and disruptive outbursts.