The ESA-Solar Orbiter mission is devoted to solar and heliospheric physics and it has been recently redefined as part of a joint ESA-NASA programme called Heliophysical Explorers. This programme, which comprises ESA's Solar Orbiter and NASA's Solar Sentinels, will represent a quality leap in the understanding of plasma processes at the basis of energy and momentum transport in the solar wind. INAF-IFSI, as part of an international consortium, is deeply involved in the proposal for the Solar Wind Analyser (SWA). This proposal was recently submitted to ESA in response to the Announcement of Opportunity for Solar Orbiter as released by the Agency on October the 18th, 2007. SWA is a plasma suite made of 4 different instruments dedicated to reconstruct the full 3D velocity distribution function of protons, alphas, electrons and heavy ions. INAF-IFSI is one of the Lead Institutes within the consortium and its task will be the provision of the whole data processing unit for the entire suite, the onboard S/W and the EGSE. INAF-IFSI will also contribute to the design of the proton analyser (PAS). This paper aims to give a short overview of the main unsolved problems related to the study of solar wind plasma and of the SWA-Solar Orbiter related activities at IFSI.
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