Sunrise III is ready for launch

Stratospheric winds and weather conditions on the ground will now decide when the balloon-borne solar observatory can take off on its research flight.

May 21, 2024

The balloon-borne solar observatory Sunrise III balloon-borne has cleared the final hurdle before take-off. The tests at the Swedish Space Cooperation's Esrange Space Center near the Arctic Circle confirmed that all instruments and systems are functioning as expected and are working together smoothly. Carried by a crane vehicle, the seven-meter-high observatory for the first time during this year’s campaign left the large hall at the edge of the launch pad, where the Sunrise III team, led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, has been preparing for the stratospheric flight since April. Sunrise III will look at the Sun from an altitude of more than 35 kilometers and gather unique observational data.

After the successful tests, it remains unclear when the launch will take place. The stratospheric winds, which in the summertime reliably blow westwards and will carry the solar observatory as far as Canada, have not yet built up. Current forecasts suggest that the winds will pick up at the end of May. After that, the weather on the ground will determine the exact launch date.

The mission

The balloon-borne solar observatory Sunrise III is a mission of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS, Germany) and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL, USA). Sunrise III looks at the Sun from the stratosphere using a 1-meter telescope, three scientific instruments, and an image stabilization system. Significant contributors to the mission are a Spanish consortium, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ, Japan), and the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics (KIS, Germany). The Spanish consortium is led by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA, Spain) and includes the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA), Universitat de València (UV), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). Other partners include NASA's Wallops Flight Facility Balloon Program Office (WFF-BPO) and the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC).

Sunrise III is supported by funding from the Max Planck Foundation, NASA under Grant #80NSSC18K0934 and #80NSSC24M0024 (“Heliophysics Low Cost Access to Space” program), and the ISAS/JAXA Small Mission-of-Opportunity program and JSPS KAKENHI JP18H05234. The Spanish contributions have been funded by the Spanish MCIN/AEI under projects RTI2018-096886-B-C5, and PID2021-125325OB-C5, and from ”Center of Excellence Severo Ochoa” awards to IAA-CSIC (SEV-2017-0709, CEX2021-001131-S), all co-funded by European REDEF funds, “A way of making Europe”.


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