Revolutionary Space Mission: Creating Solar Eclipses On-Demand

April 3, 2024

Key Points:

  • Proba-3 mission aims to align two spacecraft to produce artificial eclipses and capture new views of the Sun.
  • The project will complete the first-ever precision formation space flight, showcasing advanced technology.
  • ESA envisions using the technology for future missions, including observing cosmic targets at extraordinary resolutions.


Days before a total solar eclipse sweeps across North America, scientists in Europe have revealed an audacious plan to block out the sun. The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled the Proba-3 mission, which will align two spacecraft to create artificial eclipses and study the Sun in unprecedented detail. This groundbreaking project marks a significant milestone in space exploration and technology.

Latest Developments:

At an event in Belgium, ESA introduced the Proba-3 satellites: the Occulter and the Coronagraph. The Occulter will fly around 150m from the Coronograph, casting a shadow to mask the Sun and reveal the corona. This precision formation flying will enable the mission to deliver solar eclipses on demand, allowing for sustained study of the solar corona.


A similar experiment was conducted in 1975 by astronauts from the US and Soviet Union to create an artificial eclipse. However, Proba-3 aims to achieve this feat routinely and showcase the potential of precision formation flying in space missions. The €200mn mission will demonstrate various types of formation flying configurations and experiment with in-orbit rendezvous techniques.


Proba-3’s technology has far-reaching implications for future research and missions. ESA envisions using formation flying for space telescopes observing cosmic targets at extraordinary resolutions, as well as for in-orbit servicing and removal of derelict satellites. The mission will pave the way for advanced space exploration and technological advancements.

Expert Opinions:

Dietmar Pilz, ESA’s Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality, highlighted the significance of Proba-3 in advancing formation flying technology. He emphasized that once proven, formation flying will be an enabler for future missions and open up new possibilities for space exploration.


The unveiling of the Proba-3 mission by ESA marks a significant step forward in space exploration and technology. By creating artificial eclipses to study the Sun, the mission will provide valuable insights into solar phenomena and showcase the potential of precision formation flying in space missions. With its ambitious goals and groundbreaking technology, Proba-3 sets the stage for a new era of space exploration and scientific discovery.

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