The European Space Agency is planning to launch another solar probe. This comes close on heels of the successful launch of the Solar Orbiter. The Solar Orbiter is a new collaborative mission between the US space agency NASA and ESA. The orbiter will study the Sun’s north and south poles. It was launched on February 10 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The ESA said it is now exploring to launch a twin spacecraft Probe-3 to Earth’s orbit. The mission is likely to be launched by mid-2022.
The ESA wants to study the Sun’s inner corona with greater precision and also its surroundings. It said Proba-3 will consist of two small satellites. They will be placed in Earth’s orbit together and then will be aligned to cast an artificial shadow across space eclipsing the Sun. This way, the satellites will be able to block out the Sun. They will block out the Sun once in its 20-hour orbit for six hours. The agency said this will allow satellites to image the yellow dwarf star’s inner corona. Corona is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere which extends millions of kilometers into space. It can be easily seen during a total solar eclipse.
According to the ESA, Proba-3 has already cleared the design test. It is made of temperature-resistant carbon fiber reinforced polymer. Scientists are now reviewing Proba-3’s external occultation disk. They said the disk will be able to hold its shape in the space. It will prevent stray light from breaching into the probe’s main telescope. The solar coronagraph is called the Association of Spacecraft for Polarimetric and Imaging Investigation of the Corona of the Sun. The ESA said ASPIICS is the primary payload of the satellites. The instrument will block out light emitted by the Sun so that the corona can be observed. Corona is the place that gives birth to high-intensity solar winds.