Inaccessible Sun: why in Russia canceled the development of "Interheliozond"?

Mission "Interheliozond" - what is it?

The Interheliozond project is one of the long-term construction projects of the Russian space

program, was originally supposed to startback in 2015 within the “Solar System” section of the RAS Space Council. After the sequestration of the program, its launch was postponed to 2026, and recently the development of the project was completely frozen. During this time, the mission did not go beyond the preliminary design stage.

Spacecraft "Interheliozond"developed the Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation named after N. V. Pushkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IZMIRAN), MIPT, Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Physical Institute named after P. N. Lebedev RAS (LPI) together with 13 European countries.

According to the concept of the mission, the probe should approachThe sun at a distance of 40-50 million km to study solar active phenomena, the solar corona, wind and polar regions of this star, which are not visible from Earth. It was planned that Interheliozond would become a full-cycle space science apparatus - its research equipment had to work from the moment of launch and record various indicators throughout the entire journey, including during the execution of multiple gravitational maneuvers near Venus.

Scientific station "Interheliozond" isis an orbital-migrant module, equipped with a heat-shielding screen to protect the complex of scientific equipment and service systems from heating by solar radiation and propulsion, providing the necessary corrections at the stage of the flight to the Sun.

From scientific equipment at Interheliozondplanned to install devices of several types. Solar - X-ray telescope and spectrometer, magnetograph, coronagraph and optical photometer. The second type of research instruments are heliospheric, including analyzers of solar wind ions, electrons of the solar wind, plasma and dust, a magnetic-wave complex, a magnetometer, a detector of energetic particles, a detector of solar neutrons, a gamma spectrometer and a radio spectrometer. Until the end, it is not known at what stage the development of all these devices is today.

During the development Roskosmos proposed to createtwo identical probes in the framework of the Interheliozond mission - the main one, which will conduct research, and the safety probe, which will begin to conduct research in case of emergency situations with the main one.

Why do we need the Russian mission?

The main mission of "Interheliozond" - the studyfundamental things related to solar activity, the origin of the solar system and particles in general. Another thing is that the space program also indicates that it will allow a better understanding of the influence of Sun activity on humanity and the functioning of electrical devices, as well as the danger that may arise from this star in case of unforeseen situations.

The influence of the sun on people and technology

Only 40% reaches the Earth's surfacesolar radiation, the other 60% is reflected from the atmosphere and goes back into space. Another part of ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere - this leads to the greenhouse effect.

Solar energy affects a huge amountprocesses occurring on Earth. The length of the day of almost all species on Earth depends on the light - some living organisms even hibernate when the sun is low and the length of the day is extremely small; trees shed their foliage. Photosynthesis, in the end, arises only through interaction with solar energy.

Under the influence of heat from the Sun on Earth occurschange in atmospheric pressure, which entails fogs, rains, the formation of clouds and even ebbs and flows (despite the fact that the tidal forces of the moon on Earth are almost twice as strong as the sun).

The science that studies the effects of solar activity onhuman, called heliobiology. It is already known that under the influence of solar flares in humans, the number of leukocytes in the blood varies slightly, and chronic diseases can also be exacerbated.

Scientists researching the Sun are usuallythey analyze the effect of the solar wind on the Earth’s magnetosphere — its disturbances can affect both human well-being and the operation of various electrical devices. During solar flares, the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs radiation, warms up and "swells." This leads to deceleration of satellites in low orbits. The most fatal option - the complete loss of the satellite. An example of such an outcome of events can be called the descent from orbit in July 1979 of the American orbital station Skylab.

The sun during the flashes throws streamshigh-energy charged particles that reach the Earth in a few hours. Our planet is protected from them by the magnetosphere, but particle fluxes affect satellites in higher orbits — above 1,000 km, causing noise to the detectors, malfunctions and degradation of electronics. In addition, at high latitudes, high-energy charged particles can cause a disruption in radio communications.

Good. Why then the creation of the mission froze?

It is difficult to give a definite answer here.

On the one hand, the budget of the Federal SpaceThe programs adopted for 2016–2025, like many other areas not related to the state’s social obligations or defense, have greatly decreased in recent years. For ten years it amounts to 1.406 trillion rubles - instead of the initially planned 2.5 trillion rubles. Of these, the section "Fundamental space research" (FCI) is only 143.2 billion rubles - that is, 14 billion rubles each. It includes support for all existing research missions, as well as the development of new ones, the launch of which is scheduled for the coming decades.

Among the priorities were planetary andastrophysical studies, as well as a very massive lunar program with its development of automatic stations, preparation for manned flights and even the creation of a lunar base.

Competition for the creation of a space complex forHeliophysical studies of the Sun, which Roscosmos announced in 2013, assumed the allocation of 915 million rubles for the creation of a mission to study the Sun. Practically nothing is known about the other funds allocated under the project. In addition, the Lavochkin NGO, which participated in the development of the mission, will renegotiate the already existing contract with Roscosmos. The reasons for this are also unknown.

Image: NASA. The sun - from its surface to its upper atmosphere - all photos were taken at about the same time.

The other side of the freezing project - technicalproblems that developers have encountered during its creation. They immediately faced difficulties associated with the mass of the probe itself: for its successful flight, the mass of all devices at the Interheliozond should be minimal.

"There were issues related to a certain excess mass: it was necessary to put into orbit with certain characteristics, with the expectation of a specific rocket, which required restrictions on the mass. These questions were not finally linked, so it was necessary to refine the conceptual design in terms of clarifying these characteristics. We have so far stopped at this, ”the director of IZMIRAN Vladimir Kuznetsov explained recently the suspension of financing of the project.

There is one more nuance related to the development“Interheliosonda”: ​​back at the end of 2014, Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Lev Zeleny said that Roscosmos would pay more attention to scientific and space projects that do not duplicate missions launched by other countries.

And what, there are missions similar to Interheliozond?

Yes! The loudest is the mission Parker Solar Probe, which NASA launched to the Sun on August 11, 2018. "High tech" talked in detail about her here. In short, the technical stuffing of the Parker Solar Probe even at the time of launch was much better than that of Interheliozond, the launch of which is scheduled for at least eight years. The probe will almost touch the Sun - the distance of the device to the star will be less than 6.1 million km, and the heat shield covering the Parker Solar Probe will only heat up to 1,644 ° C.

Image: NASA Parker Solar Probe

The main mission of the Parker Solar Probe isthe study of the solar corona - the region of the Sun, where the temperature exceeds 2 million degrees, but in this area is very low density of space - this will allow the device to fly almost to the Sun.

Another ambitious mission is Solar Orbiter.which is being developed by engineers from the European Space Agency. Initially, its launch was supposed to take place in 2017, but the start was postponed to 2020 - the developers were not entirely sure of the effectiveness of the heat shield.

Clear. And what part of the sun scientists are most interested in? Why run missions to the sun?

Today, the main interest of scientists isat least from NASA, is associated with the solar wind and the solar corona. The fact is that during the 146 million km that the solar wind reaches the Earth in four days, it mixes with other particles many times and loses a huge amount of its defining features. Therefore, the Parker Solar Probe mission, for example, will study precisely pure identical hot particles.

Nowadays humanity knows very little about the solarcrown The only sources for study were solar eclipses, since the Moon blocked the brightest part of the star - this made it possible to observe the dim outer atmosphere of the Sun.

Back in 1869, astrophysics during fulla solar eclipse observed a green spectral line on the surface of the star. Since different elements emit light at their characteristic wavelengths, scientists can use spectrometers to analyze light and, accordingly, determine its composition. At the same time, the green line observed from the Earth in 1869 did not correspond to any known elements on Earth. Scientists then thought that they had discovered a new element, and called it a coronium. And only in the middle of the 20th century it turned out that this was not a new element, but iron, overheated to such an extent that it was ionized 13 times - it left only half of the electrons of the atom of ordinary iron. Such an ionization process can happen only if the coronal temperatures are more than 2 million degrees Celsius, which is 200 times more than on the surface.

During the discovery of the coronal atmosphere, scientistsall over the world, they tried to understand its behavior, but even the most complex models and satellite observations in high resolution only partially explain such a sharp heating. And many theories contradict each other.

As a result, it is not completely known how the solar corona is arranged. And, basically, subsequent missions to study the Sun will be devoted to her.