Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) | SRI International

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concept illustration of Solar Orbiter spacecraft approaching the sun

Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI)

Customized CMOS imager for the Solar Orbiter spacecraft that will allow scientists to study the sun from a closer distance than any previous mission.

The Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL’s) Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) is an optical telescope that will create high-resolution images of the sun’s corona and solar wind as part of the scientific payload for the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Solar Orbiter mission.

The instrument will incorporate a mosaic of SRI-designed complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors. The full-flight SoloHI focal plane will use four of these 2k x 2k side-buttable imagers providing a 4k x 4k, or 16 megapixel, format.

This will be the first flight for such a large-format CMOS detector. At its closest approach, the ESA-led project will operate approximately 21 million miles from the sun's surface, near the orbit of Mercury—roughly 25 percent of the distance from the sun to the earth. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this unique vantage point will enhance the ability to forecast space weather.

With this large viewing field, SoloHI will be able to connect remote sensing observations of the corona to plasma being measured in situ at the spacecraft. SoloHI's revolutionary measurements will allow scientists to identify coronal mass ejections (CMEs)—space weather events with violent eruptions of solar wind. CMEs can affect electromagnetic fields on earth, which in turn can disrupt power lines, satellite communications, and cell phone service.

Solar Orbiter launch is planned for 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard an expendable launch vehicle provided by NASA.