ESA’s Solar Orbiter will perform close-up observations of the Sun while continuously bathed in sunlight. Material testing has been carried out to check the spacecraft antenna can maintain a reliable link to Earth despite the extreme 500°C heat the mission must endure.
Solar Orbiter, due for launch in 2017, will carry a portfolio of instruments to perform high-resolution imaging of our parent star from as a close as 42 million km – a little more than a quarter of the distance to Earth.
Operating in the continuous direct view of the Sun, the mission must endure 13 times the intensity of sunlight at Earth, resulting in temperatures of 500°C or more. At the same time, all of Solar Orbiter’s subsystems must go on operating normally, including its communication subsystem, relaying data back to Earth.
ESA’s Compact Antenna Test Range (CATR), at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, hosted a test campaign to ensure that the proposed coating materials can maintain the necessary radio-frequency reflectivity even as the antenna reflector’s operating temperature increases.
See the full story on ESA’s site