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Last Post 3/30/2017 1:31 PM by  Laurel Rachmeler
Solar Spacecraft
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Sophia Tommola


3/27/2017 7:33 AM
    What solar missions does NASA have planned for the near future?
    Tags: NASA, solar mission, spacecraft

    Terry Kucera

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/27/2017 11:22 AM
    Hi Sophia,

    In 2018 NASA will be launching the Solar Probe Plus mission ( This spacecraft will go closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever gone before, sampling and imaging the hot solar wind as it flows away from the sun. It will get 3.7 million miles from the solar surface, which sounds like a lot, but on solar system terms is pretty close-by, and the intense brightness of the sun makes that very difficult.

    Another solar space mission, Solar Orbiter, is scheduled to launch in 2019. This is a European Space Agency mission, but NASA is involved too. Solar Orbiter ( will not get as close to the Sun as Solar Probe Plus, but it will get closer than the planet Mercury. It will also move out of the plane of Earth's orbit (the "ecliptic") and be able to image the area around the Sun's poles, which is hard to do from Earth's orbit.


    Laurel Rachmeler

    New Member

    New Member

    3/30/2017 1:31 PM
    Usually someone in the Solar Physics community is working on the next big satellite. Sometimes there are 2 or 3 in the works at a time. Each of these missions can take decades to plan and build before they are launched, and they can be pretty expensive. There are also other ways to get new measurements in the meantime. We have put telescopes onto high-altitude balloons to test new technology, or put them on short-lived (10 minute) rocket flights. These methods allow us view the Sun from above most of Earth's atmosphere, which is important because the atmosphere blocks some of the light coming from the Sun. These other methods aren't as expensive, and they don't take as long to design and build. We also have many telescopes on the ground looking up at the Sun during the daytime.

    Even while the next telescopes are being built, our community is always thinking about what is going to come next. This is great because it means that the new technology evolves as our needs as a community evolve. We are constantly discovering new information about how the Sun works, and so we constantly need to think up new instruments to keep the science moving forward.
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