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Good Luck Solar Orbiter from the Team At ESR Technology


At approximately 4:00AM GMT on 10th February 2020 the Solar Orbiter spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral to survey the sun. ESR Technology will be watching the launch with interest and pride.

Solar Orbiter will combine in-situ measurements on board the spacecraft with remote imaging and spectroscopy of the Sun. Its goal is to gain new insights into the solar wind, the heliospheric magnetic field, solar energetic particles, transient interplanetary disturbances and the Sun's magnetic field. The mission will provide close-up, high-latitude observations of the Sun from 40 million kilometres, closer than any man-made object in history, and inside the orbit of the closest planet Mercury.

ESR Technology’s expert consultants supported many challenging issues relating to the lubrication of mechanisms on board Solar Orbiter including the Antenna Pointing Mechanism (APM) and High Gain Antenna (HGA) sub-system for communication with Earth, the Feedthroughs, Doors and Mirrors (FDM) subsystems to protect its instruments from the Sun’s rays and even the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (SO-PHI). However, our role in one instrument in particular stands out.

The SPICE (Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment) instrument, will perform extreme ultraviolet imaging spectroscopy to remotely characterise plasma properties of the Sun's corona. Key to the success of the SPICE instrument is the Scan and Focus Mechanism (SFM) used to provide scan-rotation and linear focus adjustment for the instrument’s primary mirror. Designed, built and tested by the ESR Technology’s Space mechanisms team, and led by our dear former colleague Grant Munro, the SFM features a linear stage to focus the mirror, and a secondary rotational stage to allow scanning of the solar image. Grant sadly passed away shortly after completing his work on the project, and it is a proud legacy to leave; the mechanism will scan almost 70,000 times during its lifetime, with an accuracy of 0.1 arcsecond, in the extreme conditions of a near-solar orbit.

Following years of hard work, dedication, and technical excellence from the whole team, the project culminated with ESR Technology successfully delivering the SFM to RAL Space in 2017 for integration into the SPICE instrument. Next stop, the sun!

From everyone at ESR Technology – Good luck Solar Orbiter!




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