Visualisation of a Venus gravity assist flyby. Solar Orbiter will make numerous gravity assist flybys of Venus (and one of Earth) over the course of its mission to adjust its orbit, bringing it closer to the Sun and also out of the plane of the Solar System to observe the Sun from progressively higher inclinations. This will result in the spacecraft being able to take the first ever images of the Sun’s polar regions, crucial for understanding how the Sun ‘works’.
Solar Orbiter is an ESA mission with strong NASA participation. Its mission is to perform unprecedented close-up observations of the Sun and from high-latitudes, providing the first images of the uncharted polar regions of the Sun, and investigating the Sun-Earth connection. Launch is currently scheduled for 5 February 2020 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, US.