Timeline

  • January 2008: MAG instrument proposal submitted to ESA
  • October 2011: Solar Orbiter adopted by ESA as mission M1
  • January 2012: MAG instrument passes Preliminary Design Review
  • August 2013: MAG team submits Critical Design Review data package
  • October 2013: MAG Instrument Critical Design Review
  • November 2016: MAG flight instrument delivery deadline
  • October 2018: Solar Orbiter launch

All the hardware of the Solar Orbiter magnetometer is being developed at Imperial College London.

The instrument is a conventional dual fluxgate instrument, but has required a number of technology developments for this mission:

Thermal and mechanical design: the magnetometers will be in shadow behind the spacecraft on the instrument boom, leading to extremely low temperatures (up to -160 degrees C). This, combined with high vibration loads during launch, has required a re-design of the thermal and mechanical aspects of the sensor housing.

SpaceWire: the communications interface to the spacecraft is via SpaceWire, which has requires the implementation of a real-time operating system (RTEMS is being used) to manage data flow and the spacecraft interface.

Digital magnetometer design: the sense electronics of the magnetometer are controlled by a FPGA, rather than a traditional analogue design.

Instrument Heritage

Magnetometers built in our labs at Imperial College London have successfully operated throughout the Solar System: on Cassini in orbit around Saturn; on Ulysses over the poles of the Sun; and on the four Cluster and two Double Star spacecraft in Earth orbit. We have also provided flight hardware for the Rosetta and Venus Express spacecraft - see the magnetometer laboratory web pages for more information.