A satellite launched in early February to explore our sun had some Alabama-made tech on board its flight.
RUAG Space, with a Decatur manufacturing plant, supplied the Interstage Adapter for the 400 series Atlas V launch vehicle, which connected the booster to the Centaur upperstage. United Launch Alliance, which makes the Atlas V rocket, also is based in Decatur.
The satellite, called Solar Orbiter, is a joint ESA/NASA collaboration. The Solar Orbiter’s mission is to get up-close images of the sun’s polar regions, specifically studying the solar wind.
During ascent, the Solar Orbiter sits on the RUAG payload adapter and separation system, ensuring a low shock and precise release of the satellite once it reaches its final orbit.
RUAG Space also has various parts on board the Solar Orbiter. “Our computer controls the satellite, stores all scientific data, and communicates with Earth, while our thermal insulation keeps it at the right temperature and our structures hold it steady,” said Peter Guggenbach, executive vice president of RUAG Space.
Due to its close proximity to the sun, Solar Orbiter’s heat shield will be exposed to 13 times more solar radiation than on Earth, with some parts experiencing extremely high temperatures. RUAG Space developed a special thermal insulation for these conditions and supplied the spacecraft structure, which is made of a carbon fiber backbone in cylinder form with a number of aluminum sandwich panels to which all the subsystems are mounted.
RUAG Space Decatur manufacturing plant was built to produce fairings, interstage adapters and heat shields, with the capability to expand products as needed.