back to article Forget the Oscars, the Solar Orbiter is off to take a close look at our nearest (and super-hot) star

The European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter launched on time at 04:03 UTC this morning on the back of an Atlas V. The rocket, in 411 configuration (a 4m payload fairing and single solid rocket booster stuck to the side of the main vehicle), sent the spacecraft on its way, marking the 82nd launch of an Atlas V. The Atlas V has …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "other missions [..] have endured long past their expected expiry date"

    The boffins can obviously take some credit for that, of course, but some credit is due to the engineers and technicians who built the things in a such a sturdy way.

    Who knows ? Maybe it's just the fact that building things to survive long exposure to space radiation also makes them inherently more durable than the specifications call for. In any case, I do believe that there is no case of an orbiter, satellite or probe that failed before planned mission end as long as it was put on the right orbit / landed safely.

    Long may we continue that tradition.

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "other missions [..] have endured long past their expected expiry date"

      The boffins can obviously take some credit for that, of course, but some credit is due to the engineers and technicians who built the things in a such a sturdy way.

      Pretty sure that 'boffin' and 'engineer' are not mutually exclusive terms: engineers can be boffins, and many are, especially the ones that design and build spacecraft. Indeed the kind of boffin who regards engineers as a lesser breed (which happens) is, I suspect, often suffering from secret envy in the usual way.

      There can obviously only be one icon for this comment.

      1. KarMann Bronze badge

        Re: "other missions [..] have endured long past their expected expiry date"

        Put it this way: If you meet a rocket engineer at a party, and she says 'why yes, as a matter of fact, I am a rocket scientist,' who's going to bother correcting her?

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: "other missions [..] have endured long past their expected expiry date"

        I can't remember the specifics for Solo; it was a long time ago, but I think the radiation total dose was similar to about 20 years in geostationary orbit. Then it had to work perfectly at 20°C higher than the expected highest temperature. And all of this with a reliability of something like 99.999. I had to meet the whole specification for that, but the mission could probably work with worse performance

        It doesn't surprise me when it lasts longer than the initial mission life.

  2. Daedalus Silver badge

    Journalistic hyperbole

    harsh environment near the Sun

    I'm not sure in what sense 28 million miles counts as "near". Certainly that's nearer even than Mercury, but artists impressions showing the orbiter next to an impressively large Sun are totally misleading. The Sun would look about four times as large as the Moon does from Earth. That's spanning, ooh, two degrees on the sky.

    The Reg can be forgiven for being no worse than ESA and other news outlets for this. I'm sure that journos worldwide still think of the Solar System as a very crowded place where the distances are easily spanned by simple rockets. "Taxi! Phobos and don't hang around!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Journalistic hyperbole

      Being 0.3 AU away from the Sun will mean that it's exposed to roughly ten times more solar radiation than if it were at Earth-distance though. I'm sure I've read before that heat-management is important in satellites, as they have to get rid of heat by radiation, which only removes a small amount of energy. Consequently, it's quite easy for electronics to overheat.

      More importantly, it will also be exposed to ten times more charged particles and other nasties. And won't be shielded by the Earth's magnetic field. The increased damage to the solar panels and internal electronics could be enough to justify "harsh environment". I'd be surprised if it didn't significantly limit the lifetime of the components (and mission).

    2. GregC

      Re: Journalistic hyperbole

      Oligatory xkcd (though this is for Parker rather than SolO)

      I guess the point is that while in absolute terms (ie millions of km) these probes may not seem to be going "close", relative to anything else, and in terms of the harshness of the environment they are going in to, it's plenty close enough...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Journalistic hyperbole

      "Taxi! Phobos and don't hang around!"

      Are you off to see the Leather Goddess?

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Journalistic hyperbole

        I had to look that one up. Obscurissimo. It's not even on the "Lost Treasures of Infocom" CD.....

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Boffest

    A bunch of happy boffins.

    The ESA have some excellent projects under their collective belts, long may they continue to add to the sum of knowledge of our universe.

  4. Brian Miller

    Sun, science ...

    What, not studying the Frog Star? Sun, sand, suffering!

  5. jake Silver badge

    "Forget the Oscars"

    They still do that holdover from the 1920s?

    Why? There hasn't been anything new in the film industry in probably three decades, maybe longer.

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: "Forget the Oscars"

      No doubt you have not seen any films for that long.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: "Forget the Oscars"

        I've walked out of many in the theatre, and waited to turn off many more mid-show from the comfort of my own home. Does that count?

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: "Forget the Oscars"

          Why did you bother even starting to watch films if they're obviously not your cup of tea?

          I don't enjoy football, so I don't go to matches in order to leave in a huff at half time.

          1. The First Dave

            Re: "Forget the Oscars"

            " I don't go to matches in order to leave in a huff" - so why _do_ you go then?

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