01/11/2016 2:28 pm
ESA–A. Le Floc'h
This engineering model of Solar Orbiter's sunshield, sandwiched together from multiple layers of titanium and outermost carbon coating, being tested in the 15 m-high and 10 m-diameter Large Space Simulator vacuum chamber at ESA’s Technical Centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, during May 2014.
Solar Orbiter, due for launch in 2018, will carry a portfolio of instruments for high-resolution imaging of our parent star from as close as 42 million km – a little more than a quarter of the distance to Earth. Operating in direct view of the Sun, the mission must endure 13 times the intensity of terrestrial sunlight and temperatures rising as high as 520°C. The main body of the spacecraft will therefore be huddled behind a multi-layered 3.1 m by 2.4 m sunshield, with the circular holes for cameras to peep through, many behind protective glass or beryllium.
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