Darmstadt. What seems poetic given the density of satellites in Earth’s orbit is an almost large volume of traffic on Venus. In a few hours on August 9 and 10, the Esa probe “Solar Orbiter” and “BepiColombo” will fly over Venus in order to slow down on the way to achieving their mission goals. With the Japanese Venus spacecraft “Akatsuki”, there will be three research probes on the planet closest to Earth.
“It wasn’t actively planned. Now the scientists are very happy that they got three data sets of Venus from different viewpoints, which is something new for them,” says Simon Bloom, ESA mission operations chief at Darmstadt Control. “The fact that you can observe Venus from three different angles is unique.”
Datasets that can also provide information for future tasks, yes – reciprocal photo session, no. “We investigated it, but it didn’t work, they just don’t get close enough for it.” Coming back to the fact that the date is still about to happen due to delays in errands.
Only 550 kilometers in altitude
Solar Orbiter will fly close to Venus on August 9 at 6.42 a.m. (CET) at a distance of 7,995 kilometers. The next day, on the other side of the planet, “BepiColombo” will reach its smallest distance at 3:48 p.m. at an altitude of just 550 kilometers, which is just over the distance between the ISS and Earth. .
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According to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the atmosphere of Venus consists mainly of carbon dioxide, which leads to a significant greenhouse effect. Accordingly, the temperatures on the inner neighboring planet of the solar system are about 470 ° C, day and night. The composition of the atmosphere is the subject of investigations by the Japanese Akatsuki probe. According to the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the “BepiColombo” and the “Solar Orbiter” also collect valuable data.
Bloom and his team in Darmstadt are not concerned. “We are now trying to make the most of this happy coincidence.” You have teams of specialists to control investigations. “It’s no longer an effort, but no less.” Teams at the Control Center are still unable to operate at full capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For both missions, there are still small path corrections up front.
During the flight, there was no longer any possibility of interference. After all, there is a ten-minute delay of data for Venus. But: “We’re well prepared. Something unexpected can always happen, but that’s the natural danger,” says Bloom. Collision can be ruled out with certainty.
According to its own information, the European Space Agency currently controls a total of 25 satellites through space, 22 of them from the Darmstadt control center. The “BepiColombo” space probe began its seven-year journey to the planet Mercury, which is closest to the Sun, in October 2018. With two satellites on board, the surface and magnetic field of the orb is scheduled to be examined from December 2025. The European-Japanese project aims The joint venture, at a total cost of about two billion euros, will help understand the origins of the solar system.
The space probe “Solar Orbiter” of the US space agency ESA and the US space agency NASA, at a cost of about 1.5 billion euros, was launched in February 2020 from Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida. There are ten scientific instruments on board the 1.8-ton orbiter. Researchers hope to gain new knowledge about the sun and its magnetic field. The “solar module” is said to fly up to 42 million kilometers from the sun.
Planned braking maneuvers
The probe has already recorded the first films of explosions of particles from the solar atmosphere. Strong solar winds can affect what is known as space weather. In the case of planets with atmospheres, particles can release the aurora borealis. But it can also lead to technical problems, such as failure of navigation systems or damage to satellites.
Both probes fly across planets several times on their journey through space in order to slow down their speed. The “solar orbit” will pass Earth for the last time in November. Without these maneuvers, Bloom explains, the probes would be accelerating more and more toward the sun due to the gravitational pull and would likely outrun the star. “We have to slow them down so they can swing into the appropriate orbits.” dpa
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