US-European Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Makes Its First Venus Flyby

London: The joint US-European Solar Orbiter spacecraft has completed its first of the many gravity assist flybys of Venus, to start out bringing it closer to the Sun and tilting its orbit so as to watch our star from different perspectives.

The spacecraft’s closest approach to Venus happened at 12.39 Coordinated Greenwich Mean Time (UTC) on Sunday.

“First #VenusFlyby completed for #SolarOrbiter,” the official Twitter handle of the spacecraft tweeted.

A partnership between NASA and therefore the European Space Agency (ESA), the probe was launched in February to review the Sun.

Its mission is to perform unprecedented close-up observations of the Sun and from high-latitudes, providing the primary images of the uncharted polar regions of the Sun, and investigating the Sun-Earth connection.

The Solar Orbiter’s path round the Sun has been chosen to be “in resonance” with Venus, which suggests that it’ll return to the planet’s vicinity every few orbits and may again use the planet’s gravity to change or tilt its orbit, the ESA said.

The next encounter are going to be in August 2021,the agency said.

Initially, the spacecraft are going to be confined to an equivalent plane because the planets, but each encounter of Venus will increase its orbital inclination.

By 2025 it’ll make its first solar pass at 17 degree inclination, increasing to 33 degree by the top of the last decade , bringing even more of the polar regions into direct view.

This will end in the spacecraft having the ability to require the primary ever images of the Sun’s polar regions, crucial for understanding how the Sun “works”, for investigating the Sun-Earth connection and the way we will better predict periods of stormy space weather, the ESA said.

Heidi Phillips