After months of delays and budget cuts, the Solar Core mission has met its goal of leaving Earth’s orbit and arriving at the Sun’s surface for the first time. The solar probe successfully detached from its orbiter earlier this month and is now hurtling through space towards the Sun.
The solar core mission is important because it will provide us with new insights into the Sun and its effects on Earth. Once it reaches the Sun’s surface, the solar core will begin to slowly rotate around its spin axis and provide us with new data.
The solar core was originally scheduled to arrive at the surface of the Sun in June 2025, however due to a variety of predictable and unpredictable factors, this has been pushed back by a few months.
A Few Months’ Delayed Surfacesal
It started with the coronavirus. In March and April 2020, China’s Covid-19 pandemic shut down much of the country, including all factory production and commercial flying. This caused a sudden and unexpected shutdown of the solar core spacecraft’s mission issuance plant in Japan, where it had been built.
The solar core is an important international partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan’s JAXA, and the United States National Space agency (NASA). It will orbit around the Earth for a year before detaching and proceeding to the Sun.
While the spacecraft was on the road to the Sun, scientists around the world were waiting with bated breath for the solar core’s planned June 2025 arrival. However, as the end of April and beginning of May approached, no signs of the solar core were detected. This was a huge setback.
But the delay was only a brief one. On May 4 the spacecraft was detected by satellites, but it was still undetected by radar even as it entered Earth’s airspace. On May 14, JAXA, ESA, and NASA officials announced that the solar core mission had been delayed by a few months to June 2026.
In a press release, they stated that the spacecraft’s spacecraft navigation system (S3) had indeed worked as expected and that the launch window for the solar core would now open on June 2026.
S3 Orbital Navigation System
The solar core is a solution to the problem of reliable solar energy depletion. Currently, the world relies on the Sun for a lot of its energy needs, such as for electricity, water purification, and air travel. So any new solar system would be of utmost importance, especially if it could provide a renewable source of power for the world. The solar core mission is designed to answer some of the burning questions about our Solar System and its central Sun, closing the gap between observation and theory.
The solar core will answer several of the myriad of questions associated with the Sun and its role in the Solar System. This includes such subjets as:
- How is the Sun distributed in mass?
- What is the internal structure of the Sun?
- How is rotation related to mass?
- How long does it take for the Sun to rotate? (Its spin period)
- How fast does the Sun spin?
- What is the shape of the Sun’s magnetic field?
- What is the state of the Sun’s rotation as we find it now? (Is it stalled?)
What is the solar core’s goal?
The solar core’s spacecraft is called the Living Solar System, and the primary purpose of the mission is to study the evolution of the Solar System and learn more about the role of the Sun in this process.
One of the principal investigators of the Living Solar System mission is Dr. Hiromichi Tokoro of the University of Tokyo. Dr. Tokoro said in a press release that the solar core was a unique opportunity to study the evolution and future prospects of the Solar System in detail.
“Studying the Sun’s evolution will help us understand a lot about the formation of our Solar System. But ultimately, it’s all about the solar energy. The more we know about the Sun, the more we can do to make our civilization sustainable. And that’s a message I’ll take back to the JAXA, to the ESA, and to the world. Thank you for waiting so patiently.