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This page provides a general overview of how Solar Orbiter science operations are planned, as well as references to more detailed information.

The Solar Orbiter Mission

Solar Orbiter is a platform hosting 10 instruments, among which 4 in-situ instruments and 6 remote-sensing instruments (payload overview). While in-situ instruments and STIX are observing continuously, remote-sensing observations are primarily performed within "Remote Sensing Windows". There are in general three 10-day remote-sensing windows in each orbit (an orbit is  5-6 months long). These windows nominally cover the periods of perihelion and extreme latitude of the satellite within the orbit. Outside of these windows, remote sensing synoptic programmes are routinely run.

Solar Orbiter observations are planned on 3-month long periods called "Long-term planning" (LTP). The different observation campaigns are called SOOPs (Solar Orbiter Observing Plans) and are described in the paper The Solar Orbiter Science Activity Plan (Zouganelis et al., 2020).

Related pages on Confluence:

Future Solar Orbiter observations

See Solar Orbiter Science Planning for a detailed description of the planning process.
In the following we provide a condensed version of the plan for the upcoming Long-Term-Planning (LTP) period.

Oct-Dec 2021: LTP05

See the LTP05 confluence page for a full description of the LTP05 planning.

Milestones:

  • 2021-11-27: Earth GAM and official start of the nominal mission
  • Early December: nominal science activities start

Coordinated science and calibration campaigns:

  • 2021-09-20 to 2021-10-11: remote sensing synoptic programme
  • 2021-11-05: Cross- and inter-calibration opportunity with Earth-based assets
  • 2021-11-27: Earth GAM, specific observations by SoloHI, Metis, RPW (TBC)
  • 2021-12-04: Remote-sensing synoptics adjusted to support observations of the Sun during the solar eclipse on Earth (over West Antarctica)
  • 2021-12-04 to 2022-01-01: Remote sensing synoptic programme
  • 2021-12-17 to 2021-12-21: Remote sensing synoptics adjusted to support observations of the comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) by METIS and SoloHI.

LTP05 planning overview: 

The figure above shows a timeline of planned Solar Orbiter payload and platform operations during LTP05. The synoptic remote-sensing observations planned during this period are instances of the SOOP L_FULL_LRES_MCAD_Coronal-Synoptic. Science objectives and associated instrument modes of this SOOP are described here.

Dec 2021-Apr 2022: LTP06

See the LTP06 confluence page for a full description of the LTP06 planning.

Milestones:

  • 2022-01-10 11:44 to 2022-01-12 02:20: Maintenance window (all instruments off)
  • 2022-03-07 09:00: crossing of the Sun-Earth line (cross-calibration with Earth-based assets)
  • 2022-03-26: perihelion (0.323 AU)

Remote-sensing windows:

  • 2022-03-02 00:00 to 2022-03-12 00:00: Remote sensing window #1
  • 2022-03-17 00:00 to 2022-03-27 00:00: Remote sensing window #2
  • 2022-03-27 00:00 to 2022-04-06 00:00: Remote sensing window #3

Coordinated science campaigns: The list of coordinated science and cross-calibration campaigns, during and outside the remote-sensing window, is described in the LTP06 confluence page under Science and calibration planning, and summarized as:

Overview of the LTP06 planning


The figure above shows the detailed activity planning for Solar Orbiter during LTP06. The SOOPs planned for this period are described in the list of coordinated science campaigns above.

Planning for the remainder of 2022

See: Planning for the first segment of the nominal mission plan (Jan-Dec 2022) and Roadmap for Planning Activities & Related Work.

Placement of remote-sensing windows (RSWs) as agreed by Solar Orbiter's Science Working Team at SWT-29:

First half of 2022 (LTPs 06 & 07, RSW1-3):

  • RSW1: "South" window 2-11 March (0.56-0.44 au)
  • RSW2: "Perihelion" window 17-26 March (0.38-0.32 au), perihelion on 26 March at 0.32 au
  • RSW3: "North" window: 27 March - 5 April (0.32-0.39 au)

Second half of 2022 (LTPs 08 & 09, RSW4-6):

  • RSW4: "South window" 8-17 October (0.312-0.316 au), perihelion on 12 October at 0.29 au
  • RSW5: "Perihelion" window: 18-27 October (0.32-0.43 au)
  • RSW6: "North" window: 28 October - 6 November (0.43-0.57 au)

The list of acronyms used in the Solar Orbiter documents.

The orbit plots for the whole mission, providing the spacecraft position over time as well as preliminary positions of the remote-sensing windows. See below an example and description of a Solar Orbiter orbit plot.

How to read these orbit plots?

Each orbit plot represents ~6 months of the orbit of Solar Orbiter. Each orbit is divided into two Long Term Planning (LTP) periods. Each summary orbit plot displays a spatial plot on the left and four time profiles on the right, as it can be seen on the example below. Below are explanations on how to read each part of these plots.

The spatial plot

The orbits of Solar Orbiter, Parker Solar Probe, STEREO-A and Bepi Colombo are represented for the 6-month period in the ecliptic plane where the Earth and the Sun are fixed (Geocentric Solar Ecliptic coordinates). For each orbit track, the square indicates the position at the start of the period, and the tick marks the beginning of each month. On the Solar Orbiter orbit track, two triangles mark the end of the two LTP periods (LTP intervals are approximately 3 months long). Restriction periods due to GAMs (Gravitational Assist Manoeuvres) are indicated by circles. Finally, still on the Solar Orbiter track, the 3 remote-sensing windows are indicated in three different colors (see below for more on the remote-sensing windows).

The time profiles

Four time profiles are displayed: in the first panel, both the Carrington longitude and the spacecraft roll angle with respect to the Sun are shown. In the second panel, the angular speed of the spacecraft around the Sun is shown. On the third panel, the heliocentric inertial latitude of Solar Orbiter, Parker Solar Probe, BepiColombo and Earth are shown. In the last panel, the distance to the Sun in shown.

In all panels, the background colors indicate levels of telemetry available, which determines the time it takes to downlink a given amount of data from the spacecraft. White background correspond to the maximum telemetry, while dark grey indicates low telemetry and therefore delays to data downlink as well as overall limitations of the amount of data that can be acquired in this period.

The period of solar conjunction is shown in magenta and the associated safe mode black out (no communication with the spacecraft) is shown in cyan, in the top panel. These are the periods when the satellite is behind the Sun from the Earth point of view.

Finally, the different marks presented in the spatial plot (GAM restrictions, end of LTP periods, and remote sensing windows) are also reported in these time profiles.


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