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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Solar Orbiter commissioning has been halted so ESOC can go on lockdown. The net effect for our MLP planning is that the start of the Cruise Phase has been effectively postponed (without a known start date yet). MLP planning is still needed and most, if not all, the work done in the past is valid. Until the situation returns to normal and we know when CP will start, there are a number of assumptions we will use (and modify as we learn more) to prepare for it:

  • The date for the start of the Cruise Phase is now unknown.
  • We assume the remainder of NECP activities will eventually be run.
    • But it will take longer because of the increasing OWLT and the slower TM downlink rates.
  • No science operations during LTP1 (as we are assuming the end of commissioning will be later than 30 June).
    • In absence yet of the general conditions for ESOC to resume normal operations (which are being defined), we assume an interruption of at least 6 weeks based on Chinese and South Korean experience.
  • At certain point during LTP2 (i.e. the second half of the year) we would start the Cruise Phase and, therefore, science operations.
  • The current planning for LTP2 holds - but it would be reasonable to expect some competition for ground station time when operations resume for every suspended mission.
  • LTP3 mission level planning (2021) needs to be discussed - so the proposal compiled last Friday 20 March is still relevant.
  • LTP3 mission level planning needs to be now understood to cover the first and second RSCWs and the first star calibration if possible, as June operations are now unfeasible.
  • We assume the ESTRACK User Group to negotiate ground station time during the first half of 2021 will be held at the end of May 2020 (normal schedule) - but we keep an eye on it, as it would not be surprising it would be moved later to account for a renegotiation of 2H 2020 ground station time whenever mission operations are resumed. Assuming it will be postponed is dangerous now, we need to be ready.
  • So we still need the SWT resolution of what we want to do during 1H 2021 by mid May.
  • However, given the change in overall planning (no RSCW1, no star calibration in June this year) we assume the PIs may need more time to consider the SOC's 1H 2021 proposal with their teams.
  • Some activities originally scheduled for LTP1 may need to be added to LTP4, when we are coming back closer to Earth.
    • We have time until Q4 to plan for this.
  • The telecon on Thursday, 26 March is a good opportunity to kick-off the discussion with the SWT.

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