[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The scientific rationale of the Solar Orbiter is to provide, at high spatial (35 km pixel size) and temporal resolution, observations of the solar atmosphere and unexplored inner heliosphere. Novel observations will be made in the almost heliosynchronous segments of the orbits at heliocentric distances near 45 R⊙ and out of the ecliptic plane at the highest heliographic latitudes of 30° – 38°. The Solar Orbiter will achieve its wide-ranging aims with a suite of sophisticated instruments through an innovative design of the orbit. The first near-Sun interplanetary measurements together with concurrent remote observations of the Sun will permit us to determine and understand, through correlative studies, the characteristics of the solar wind and energetic particles in close linkage with the plasma and radiation conditions in their source regions on the Sun. Over extended periods the Solar Orbiter will deliver the first images of the polar regions and the side of the Sun invisible from the Earth.