UK scientists lead space mission to the sun.
A SPACECRAFT built to unlock the mysteries of the sun has been described as "the most significant UK investment in a space science mission for a generation".
The Solar Orbiter, which was designed and built in Stevenage, is expected to blast off into space next week in the Atlas V 411 rocket from Nasa's Cape Canaveral site in Florida.
The spacecraft will orbit the star, beaming back high-resolution photos and measuring the solar wind as part of the mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and partly funded by the The UK Space Agency.
Dr Chris Lee, the UK Space Agency's chief scientist, said: "Understanding how our Sun works is a UK science strength, with teams investigating how solar storms build and grow. The Solar Orbiter represents the most significant UK investment in a space science mission for a generation.
"Science teams across the UK proposed the mission in the first place and are now supporting major roles in four of the 10 instruments."
Following lift-off, the Solar Orbiter will take about two years to reach the sun, which scientists call the "cruising phase".
Coated with a heat shield, SolarBlack, the spacecraft can endure temperatures of more than 500C, hot enough to melt lead.