A program office to direct the design and development of a new generation of Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) satellites to continue investigation of the sun’s structure has been established at HAC.
Bob Roney, manager of Space Systems Division, said the company will compete with several other aerospace firms for the solar satellite program, which will have a potential value of about $40 million over the period of 5 years.
Three satellites will be built for the program. NASA has scheduled the first launch for mid-1973.
The new generation of satellites is a follow-on to the earlier OSO program initiated by the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1959. Six satellites have been launched, the most recent in August 1969. A seventh is scheduled for launch next year.
A number of significant improvements will be incorporated in the design of the new OSO series, Dr. Roney said.
These will include an increase in satellite size, weight, and power; experiment data handling capacity; and in pointing accuracy of the solar experiments. Seven experiments will be in the new satellite.
Previous OSO satellites provided pointing accuracies of 60 arc seconds (1/60th of a degree). The new series will require pointing accuracies of 3 arc seconds. This is the equivalent of attempting to aim a small telescope at a nickel from a mile away, he said.
The system also will provide means for scanning the sun’s disk and corona – stopping at a given point to measure specific phenomena, such as a flare or sunspot, he said.
Objectives of the sun-synchronous satellites will be to obtain data to better understand the region between the disk of the sun and its atmosphere. This relatively narrow region where the chromosphere and corona meet is a region with certain peculiar properties.
In this limited region the disk, a relatively cool body of about 10,000 degrees F, is heating the corona, a hot body of several million degrees.
Knowledge of how this irregular procedure occurs will, it is hoped, lead to an understanding of how the sun’s energy is transported from the disk to the corona and then into the solar wind, Dr. Roney said.