Solar Orbiter Launch Weather Forecast 80% Favorable; Televised Briefings Today

Illustration of Solar Orbiter facing the Sun
Solar Orbiter will capture the very first images of the Sun’s polar regions, where magnetic tension builds up and releases in a lively dance. Launching in 2020, Solar Orbiter’s study of the Sun will shed light on its magnetic structure and the many forces that shape solar activity.
Credits: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Sun: NASA/SDO/P. Testa (CfA)

Weather forecasters with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions for the launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft. Liftoff is slated for Sunday, Feb. 9, at 11:03 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The primary weather concerns at launch time are potential violation of the cumulus cloud rule and ground winds.

Launch and mission managers from the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA and ULA are meeting at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch readiness review. This is a standard prelaunch review in which all parties review outstanding items and ensure the rocket, spacecraft and teams are “go” for launch.

Two televised briefings are planned for today:

1 to 2 p.m. EST: Prelaunch news conference

  • Cesar Garcia, Solar Orbiter Project Manager, European Space Agency
  • Ian Walters, Project Manager Solar Orbiter, Airbus Defence and Space
  • Alan Zide, Solar Orbiter Program Executive, NASA Headquarters
  • Tim Dunn, Launch Director, NASA Launch Services Program
  • Scott Messer, NASA LSP Program Manager, United Launch Alliance
  • Jessica Williams, 45th Space Wing Weather Officer

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EST: Science briefing

  • Daniel Mueller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist, European Space Agency
  • Nicky Fox, Director, NASA Heliophysics Division
  • Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate
  • Guenther Hasinger, Director of Science, European Space Agency

View on NASA Television or on the web at

An international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, Solar Orbiter will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.