Solar Orbiter & Parker Solar Probe
The dream of reaching our star with two perfectly complementary probes has become reality in 2020.
Solar Orbiter was launched in February, 2020, following the launch in August 2018 of the NASA mission Parker Solar Probe.
Solar Orbiter is approaching the Sun to a minimum distance of 60 R☉. At the same time, the spacecraft is going to leave behind the ecliptic plane, out to 33° in helio-latitude, in order to explore the out-of-ecliptic regions. On the other hand, Solar Probe is penetrating deeper in the solar atmosphere, down to less than 10 R☉, but remaining on the plane of the ecliptic.
The extremely high radiation flux encountered by Solar Probe requires a thick and extremely robust thermal shield to protect the Solar Probe instrumentation. Thus no telescopes can pierce through this shield to observe the Sun as in the case of Solar Orbiter. Hence when reaching the corona, Solar Probe will primarily measure the properties of the solar wind and solar atmosphere. Its only imager will be directed away from the Sun.
Solar Orbiter from time to time will “see” with its telescopes the Probe navigating through the solar atmosphere and observe the context of the Probe adventurous journey.