Solar missions

The Sun is our source of light and heat and enables life on Earth. Studying this mysterious star helps us to better understand the life and climate of our planet. However, the Sun also serves an important role in the study of the universe as a whole as it is the only star close enough to reveal important insights into planetary systems and galaxies.

In addition, the sun generates flows of gases known as ‘Solar Winds’ which shake the Earth's magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts. These flows can damage satellites and affect their orbit paths. As we become more dependent upon satellites, we increasingly need to study and predict space weather.

Thales has supplied space tubes for many key missions to the sun and is at the forefront of solar exploration


Solar Probe Plus

Solar Probe Plus is a solar mission to study streams of charged particles emitted by the Sun. Its objective is to provide insights into how the Sun affects planetary systems and our activities on Earth.

At its closest point to the Sun the probe will come within 6.6 million kilometers of the Sun which is eight times closer than any spacecraft has come before. Here the probe must survive solar intensity of more than 500 times that which an Earth orbiting spacecraft experiences.

The mission’s objectives are to examine the structure and dynamics of magnetic fields generating solar winds, trace solar wind’s energy flow, determine the mechanisms which accelerate and transport energetic flows of particles, and explore solar dusty plasma and its influence on energetic particle sources.

THALES’s 26 GHz band TWTs (TH4626C) have been ordered for transmission of scientific data from observations made of the sun and Thales’s X band TWTAs (TH4604C) have been ordered for communication data relay.


Stereo A and B

STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program. Launched in October 2006, it set out to provide a completely new perspective on solar eruptions by imaging ‘Coronal Mass Ejections’ (CMEs) and background events from two observatories simultaneously.

To obtain unique views of the sun, the twin observatories must be placed into a challenging orbit where they will be offset from one another. One observatory will be placed “ahead” of the Earth in its orbit and the other, “behind”. This offset placement will allow the STEREO observatories to generate 3-D images of the sun.

Thales provided X band tubes (TH4704C) enabling the Stereo mission to transmit data back to Earth. 


Ulysses

Ulysses was launched in October 1990; its primary missions were to investigate the properties of solar winds and interplanetary magnetic fields of interstellar gas and galactic cosmic rays. It was also used to study the solar corona and to search for gravitational waves. The last day for mission operations on Ulysses was June 30, 2009.

Thales provided X band TWTs (TH4604C) for space communication signals from the Ulysses probe.