Lagrange (spacecraft)

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Lagrange
Mission typeSpace weather forecast
OperatorESA
Start of mission
Launch date2020s (if funded)
RocketL1: Vega C [1]
L5: Ariane 6.2 [1]
 

Lagrange is a 2018 concept study for a solar weather mission by the European Space Agency (ESA). This is a British-led concept that envisions two spacecraft to be positioned at Lagrangian points L1 and L5.[2][3][4][1]

Monitoring space weather includes events such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections, geomagnetic storms, solar proton events, etc.[4] Monitoring would help predict arrival times at the Earth and any potential effect on infrastructure. If funded, both Lagrange missions would launch in the 2020s.[2]

Overview[edit]

Lagrange points in the Sun–Earth system (not to scale)
Solar flare and its prominence eruption recorded on 7 June 2011 by SDO in extreme ultraviolet

To ensure an effective capability to monitor potentially dangerous solar events, ESA initiated a study of two potential future space weather satellites called Lagrange..[3] The Lagrange mission concept is overseen by the Space Situational Awareness Programme at ESA. On 2 February 2018, ESA signed technological contracts (Phase A) to be led by Airbus UK and OHB SE of Germany to design the spacecraft specifications and the instruments' integration process.[2] UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Mullard Space Science Laboratory will assess the requirements of the science payload.

This mission concept proposes positioning two spacecraft in orbit at the L1 and L5 Lagrangian points, respectively, where gravitational forces interact to create a stable location to save propellant and from which to make observations. L1 is in the solar wind 'upstream' from Earth, so measurements at L1 provide information about the space weather coming toward Earth. In contrast, the L5 point provides a way to monitor coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the 'side' in order to estimate their speed and direction.[4]

Objectives[edit]

The preliminary Lagrange mission objectives are: [4]

Payload[edit]

To achieve these objectives, the satellites at the L1 and L5 positions have to carry different types of remote-sensing and in-situ instruments. The suggested optical instruments take heritage from ESA and NASA science missions like SOHO, STEREO and Solar Orbiter, but the instruments would be optimized for operational space weather monitoring.[1] The notional science payload may require: [4][1]

Optical instruments
  • Coronagraph – for onset and characterisation of coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
  • Heliospheric imager (HI) – A wide-angle visible-light imaging system for the detection of coronal mass ejection events directed toward Earth.
  • Magnetograph - would scan a selected solar spectrum to generate 3D maps of the magnetic field.
  • EUV imager – Imaging of the complex solar corona (the Sun's atmosphere) will support monitoring of the magnetic complexity and activity in the corona and location of the flaring active regions.
  • X-ray flux monitor – Detection of solar flares and quantification of the flare energy.
In situ instruments

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Remote sensing optical instrumentation for enhanced space weather monitoring from the L1 and L5 Lagrange points. (PDF). S. Kraft; K. G. Puschmann; J. P. Luntama. Proceedings Volume 10562, International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2016; 105620F (2017); doi:10.1117/12.2296100. International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2016, 2016, Biarritz, France.
  2. ^ a b c Design call for 'solar sentinel' mission. Jonathan Amos, BBC News. 2 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b Future Lagrange Mission. European Space Agency (ESA). 10 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Monitoring space weather. European Space Agency]] (ESA). 4 December 2017.