We need to understand the Sun. It’s only natural, given that life on Earth depends on its light and heat. We also depend on the Sun’s behavior, its mood swings as they could irreparably hurt us. The storms and radiations of the Sun can make a deadly combo. NASA and ESA run the Solar Orbiter mission, trying to learn more about our host star.
About the Solar Orbiter mission
Solar storms can disrupt the technological system and take us back to the nineteenth century. So, the European Space Agency and NASA send the Solar Orbiter there, to investigate the Sun’s activity, in the hope that we could do something to foresee and prevent a disaster.
The Solar Orbiter sent there to map the two poles of the Sun carefully, as they weren’t mapped before, has a difficult job. To complete the mission, it has to keep itself safe from the extreme heat.
The Solar Orbiter equips a high-end protective shield
To do that, it can only make limited moves, so that the shield that protects it would, at any time, maintain its shadow over the rest of the craft. The whole spacecraft is a maze, as it has the endurance to resist a pretty large scale of temperatures: from minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit on the road, up to 970° F when facing the Sun.
It can easily be compared with the famous ancient shield that belonged to Achilles. It seems just as miraculous. It has a way to reflect the heat, to practically throw it back into space, and stop it from getting to the Orbiter’s instruments. The Orbiter also produces heat, and it is released through panels of radiators on the side of the spacecraft.
The shield is coated with a thin black layer of calcium phosphate, and it is built on layers. The one in front is made of wafer-thin sheets of titanium foil. They are responsible for the reflection of the heat part. The part closest to the craft is made of aluminum covered in more foil insulation. It’s there for support. Between the front part and the base is a gap that funnels heat out to space.
David Blair was a reporter for Henri Le Chat Noir, before becoming the lead editor. David has over 20 bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to science, games and technology. David studied at Birmingham University.