1. ITV Report

Hertfordshire company to build solar spacecraft

The Solar Orbiter will take the closest ever look at the sun Photo: Astrium

The space company Astrium, based in Stevenage, has won a £240 million contract to build a spacecraft that will take the closest ever look at the sun.

The Solar Orbiter is due to be launched in 2017 on a seven-year mission. It will study the sun in detail, and its effects on the solar system. This should help scientists understand the causes of space weather, such as the electrical storms which can disrupt computers and communications on Earth.

The space craft will travel nearer to the sun than the planet Mercury, at a distance of 0.28 Astronomical Units (42 million kilometers). Sunlight there is thirteen times more intense than it is for satellites orbiting the Earth.

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