Launched at 11:03 pm on Sunday February 9, the European-built Solar Orbiter spacecraft is officially on its way to study the sun’s polar regions, thanks in large part to the dedicated oversight of Stellar Solutions’ John Satrom. John served as Launch Vehicle Integration Manager for the joint NASA-European Space Agency program that will measure the inner part of the extended solar-system environment, or heliosphere, as well as the flow of charged particles from the sun called the solar wind.
John has been working on this project for nearly seven years, traveling between work sites in Europe and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Despite many delays on the project throughout the development life cycle, the evening launch of the Atlas V was spectacular and cheered by many on both sides of the Atlantic.
At nearly one-quarter of Earth’s distance from the sun, Solar Orbiter will be exposed to sunlight 13 times more intense than what we feel on Earth. The spacecraft must also endure powerful bursts of atomic particles from explosions in the solar atmosphere. Solar Orbiter will help scientists better understand the sun’s magnetic field, and the solar cycle of variations in sunspots, radiation levels and the solar wind, which can negatively affect our communications systems and other technology.
Congratulations to John and the Solar Orbiter Team!