Sunrise III found safe at landing site

(ORDO NEWS) — After the termination of the Sunrise III solar observatory’s balloon flight on July 10, team members reached the landing site and found that the observatory’s science payload was largely intact.

According to current information, the flight had to be abandoned a few hours after launch because the solar telescope it was carrying, the centerpiece of Sunrise III, could not be pointed at the Sun.

The reason for this is currently under investigation. All options for launching the observatory next year or later are currently being considered.

Since early April this year, the international Sunrise III team has been preparing a six-meter solar observatory for flight into the stratosphere at the Esrange Space Center, located near the small northern Swedish city of Kiruna, close to the Arctic Circle.

Equipped with a telescope, three scientific instruments and an image stabilization system, Sunrise III is designed to collect observations of the Sun’s more than 2,000 kilometers thick layer extending from just below its visible surface to the upper chromosphere.

Due to ongoing global logistical issues, the earliest possible launch date was initially delayed a few weeks to June. After that, inappropriate weather further delayed the start of the mission. The first launch attempt on Saturday 9 July had to be canceled due to the threat of rain.

Early on the morning of July 10, Sunrise III was able to take advantage of a second launch opportunity: At 04:44 UTC, the solar observatory took off.

The telescope could not be pointed at the Sun, which made it impossible to obtain observational data.

The observatory landed safely in uninhabited Swedish territory near the border with Norway. Members of the Sunrise III team who reached the landing site were unable to detect serious damage to the telescope, as well as scientific instruments.

The gondola also survived the landing safely. “Sunrise III appears to have descended safely and is standing upright,” said Sunrise III principal investigator Sami K. Solanki, director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany.

In the coming weeks, the observatory will first be brought back to the Esrange Space Center. From there she could go home to Göttingen, where more detailed investigations would be carried out. The team will then study how and under what conditions the Sunrise III could be launched again next year or later.

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