The orbit of the Solar Orbiter mission is designed to bring the scientific payload to a unique "view point" where in situ and remote sensing instruments will make unprecedented scientific measurements of the state of the solar corona and the inner heliosphere.

Although the precise orbit parameters depend on the launch date, these minimum features are common to all the launch scenarios:

The EUI instrument carries two sets of EUV telescopes: the FSI (Full Sun Imager) will be used throughout the mission lifetime to monitor the activity of the whole corona, while near perihelion, the HRIs (High Resolution Imager) will produce images of the corona at unprecedented spatial resolution.

Launch scenario

The launch of Solar Orbiter is foreseen from the Kourou spaceport, between 2013 and 2018 with a Soyuz rocket equipped with a Fregat upper stage. Each envisioned launch scenario is made of three periods which are defined by the achievement of a given scientific goal:

orbit_2015_scenario


Orbit of Solar Orbiter during the mission lifetime as seen from Ecliptic North pole. The launch scenario is 2015. (click on the image to start the movie, or download the appropriate software)


Four main scenarios are envisioned, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018 depending on the configurations of planets Venus and Earth which are required to attain the nominal orbit (through Gravity Assist Manoeuvres). These scenarios are affecting both the nominal mass of the mission and up to a point its science plans due to the solar cycle. The 2015 scenario is detailed in the figure along with its associated movie (click on it).
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The orbit of Solar Orbiter as seen from the North Ecliptic pole is plotted in the figure, the associated movie illustrates the role of Gravity Assist Manoeuvres to change the course of the probe (Earth is in blue, Venus is in orange and the SO in red). The table gives the corresponding mission timeline including main orbital activies, Deep Space Manoeuvres (DSM), Gravity Assist Manoeuvres (GAM), the end of nominal and extended mission (ENM, EXM), end of the mission (EOM). Vi and Ei refer to the ith Earth and Venus flyby.

Date Years Event Inclination (degres)
above ecliptic plane
Aphelion (AU) Perihelion (AU)
2015-05-22 0 Launch 2.9 1.022 0.674
2015-11-26 0.51 GAM V1 2.8 1.384 0.716
2016-05-28 1.02 DSM 1 2.8 1.384 0.708
2016-10-08 1.38 GAM E1 0.0 1.101 0.460
2018-08-08 3.21 GAM E2 4.1 1.015 0.305
2018-10-09 3.39 GAM V2 8.0 0.879 0.225
2020-01-02 4.62 GAM V3 17.4 0.852 0.252
2021-03-26 5.85 GAM V4 24.7 0.809 0.295
2021-07-08 6.13 ENM 24.7 0.809 0.295
2022-06-19 7.08 GAM V5 29.4 0.762 0.342
2023-09-11 8.31 GAM V6 31.5 0.729 0.375
2024-01-31 8.70 EXM 31.5 0.729 0.375
2024-12-03 9.54 GAM V7 31.6 0.726 0.378
2026-02-25 10.77 EOM 31.6 0.726 0.378

Mission timeline for a launch in 2015. (adapted from ESA MAO Working Paper No. 483)