The spacecraft should reach its orbit around the sun without a period of two years, taking it within only 42 million kilometres from the sun at its closest point. The Solar Orbiter will be subject to enormous heat and radiation. Technology from Austria will help to protect the board instruments. The Austrian subsidiary of the Swiss company RUAG Space is considered to be a specialist for thermal insulation. Numerous satellites, probes and rockets are encased with a special insulation foil produced in Lower Austria. For example, the solar orbiter is sheathed in at least 20 layers of metallised plastic sheeting. It protects the board instruments from cold temperatures down to absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius) and heat up to 300 degrees Celsius.
"The individual foils are thinner than a hair", explains Christian Thalmayr of RUAG Space to der futurezone. "However, together they create an insulation effect like having metre-thick brick walls." The thermal insulation has to be as light as possible, "because every gram of extra weight sent into space costs money", he concludes.
Even more heat
The European Ariane 6 rocket should be launched into orbit this year for the first time. It should enable much less expensive starts than the Ariane 5, the strongest European launch vehicle at the present time. RUAG Space is developing the thermal insulation for the rocket propulsion. It has to withstand extreme heat of up to 1,500 degrees Celsius.
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