Mission Overview

Exploring our Nearest Star

Solar Orbiter will take us closer to the Sun than weíve ever travelled.  It will study the solar atmosphere in finer detail and higher resolution than any mission before. Thanks to itís unique orbit around the Sun and itís ability to measure the space environment where it flies, Solar Orbiter will deliver an unprecedented view and understanding of the Sunís space environment and the first view of the Sunís polar regions.
>>> visit ESA Solar Obiter page

Launch and Orbit

Solar Orbiter is scheduled to launch in 2017 from Cape Canaveral on board an Atlas V or Delta IV rocket.

Following launch, Solar Orbiter will begin its 3.4 year journey to the Sun. In order to reach it's near-Sun orbit, the spacecraft with use a series of gravity assists from Venus and the Earth, in essence, using them to catapult itself towards the Sun.

Once in place, Solar Orbiter will have a 168-day-long elliptical solar orbit with close encounters to the Sun every five months. During these close encounters, the spacecraft will come in as close as within 0.28 AU of the Sun. 1 AU or Astronomical Unit is the distance between the Earth and Sun, 150 million km (93 million miles).