Solar Orbiter “Go” for Launch on Sunday, Feb. 9

Members of the Goddard Space Flight Center Solar Orbiter Collaboration Project Office, along with Launch Services Program’s (LSP) Jim Behling (back left), launch site integration manager, pose in front of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.
Members of the Goddard Space Flight Center Solar Orbiter Collaboration Project Office, along with Launch Services Program’s (LSP) Jim Behling (back left), launch site integration manager, pose in front of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

Solar Orbiter, an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, has been given the “go” for launch on Sunday, Feb. 9, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST.

The mission was cleared to proceed during the launch readiness review held Friday morning at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. ESA, NASA and ULA officials evaluated the status of the spacecraft, rocket and ground-based assets needed to support launch. All parties were “go” at the review, according to NASA Launch Director Tim Dunn.

Weather conditions at launch time are expected to be favorable, with an 80% chance of meeting all the criteria for liftoff. Weather Officer Jessica Williams of the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predicts a high pressure moving into the area in the wake of a cold front will keep clouds and moisture at bay for several days. An onshore flow from the east could bring in some cumulus clouds and ground winds, and those are the primary weather concerns for launch on Sunday.

The Atlas V rocket, topped by the payload fairing containing the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, is scheduled to roll from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Saturday morning, Feb. 8. NASA EDGE will provide live coverage of the rollout from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. Watch live on Facebook or YouTube.

Coverage of the countdown and liftoff will begin at 10:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9, on NASA TV, NASA TV online, and on NASA’s Solar Orbiter blog.

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.

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
Participants:

  • 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
Participants:

  • 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 https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

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.

Tune in Friday for Solar Orbiter Briefings

ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter will travel inside the orbit of Mercury and capture the first images of the Sun’s north and south poles.
ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter will travel inside the orbit of Mercury and capture the first images of the Sun’s north and south poles. Image Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

Solar Orbiter, an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, is slated to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Sunday, Feb. 9. Liftoff is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Two briefings are planned for Friday, Feb. 7, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center:

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

  • 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
Participants:

  • 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 https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

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.

New Solar Orbiter Launch Date

Solar Orbiter graphicNASA, ESA (European Space Agency), Airbus and United Launch Alliance now are targeting 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 9, for the launch of the Solar Orbiter mission on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  The launch has a two-hour window.

The two-day launch delay was caused by two items that delayed transport of the spacecraft to the pad. The first item was a schedule conflict on Wednesday with a commercial mission launch from a nearby launch pad. The second item was the weather Thursday morning.

The transport of the spacecraft from the processing facility to the launch complex for mate operations now is planned for Friday, Jan. 31.

NASA Continues With Important Testing of Mars 2020 Rover Aeroshell

Mars 2020 rover aeroshell spin table tests
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, tests to measure the center of gravity and moments of inertia for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell are performed on the spin table inside the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Tests to measure the center of gravity and moments of inertia for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February. The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy last month.

The mission is scheduled to launch this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Carrying seven different scientific instruments, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. More information can be found on the mission’s website.

Solar Orbiter Encapsulated in Atlas V Payload Fairing

Both halves of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V payload fairing are positioned for installation around the Solar Orbiter spacecraft inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida, on Jan. 20, 2020.
Both halves of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V payload fairing are positioned for installation around the Solar Orbiter spacecraft inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida, on Jan. 20, 2020. Photo credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is prepared for encapsulation in the Atlas V payload fairing.The payload fairing that will provide a protective, aerodynamic cover for Solar Orbiter during launch is now in place. The two halves of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V fairing were moved into position and installed around the spacecraft on Jan. 20 inside a cleanroom at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida.

The fairing protects the spacecraft during ground operations and during ascent. Solar Orbiter’s instruments are sensitive to contamination, and the fairing has special provisions to make sure those instruments are not affected by particles or humidity.

Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The mission aims to study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar wind. The spacecraft will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch. The spacecraft has been developed by Airbus Defence and Space.

Solar Orbiter will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mars 2020 Rover Lift Activities Performed at Kennedy Space Center

Mars 2020 rover aeroshell lift activities
Lift activities for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell are conducted inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Jan. 14, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Lift activities for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell were conducted inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The activities included installing the inverted lift fixture and lifting the aeroshell assembly to the spin table for mass properties measurements.

The Mars 2020 rover mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this summer. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy will manage the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

Visit the mission website for more information.

Atlas V Rocket to Launch New Sun Mission Takes Shape at Cape Canaveral

The booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is lifted into the vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 6, 2020.
The booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is lifted into the vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 6, 2020. Photo credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is lifted into the vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 6, 2020.The rocket that will launch a new spacecraft to study the Sun is beginning to take shape at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first-stage booster for the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is “on stand,” meaning it has been raised to a vertical position inside the complex’s Vertical Integration Facility. In the coming days, the one solid rocket booster needed for the mission will be added to the booster, followed by the single-engine Centaur upper stage.

Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The mission aims to study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar wind. The spacecraft will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch. Liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020.

NASA’s Launch Services Program Prepares for Upcoming 2020 Missions

An artist's concept of NASA's Mars 2020 rover exploring the Red Planet.
An artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover exploring the Red Planet. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is ringing in the New Year with three planned science missions in 2020, aimed at studying the Sun, Mars and our oceans. The first two missions will be launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, while the third will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Launching in February, Solar Orbiter is a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, which will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and the solar wind. The spacecraft, developed by Airbus Defence and Space, will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. The Solar Orbiter spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 411 rocket, and liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 5. LSP will manage the launch.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is targeting to launch in July. Established under the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, the mission will send a rover to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient microbial life. It also will help us better understand the planet’s geology, collect rock and soil samples that can later be returned to Earth and test new technologies that could pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.

The rover is being manufactured at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and will be sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in mid-February. The rover will launch on a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by LSP, and is expected to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

Sentinel-6/Jason CS (Continuity of Service), the final mission of 2020, is projected to launch later in the year and will observe global sea level changes. The mission – a collaboration between ESA and NASA – aims to collect high-precision ocean altimetry measurements using two consecutive and identical satellites. The Sentinel-6 mission will launch from California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“LSP is incredibly excited to execute the 2020 launch manifest,” said Tim Dunn, LSP launch director. “Additionally, LSP will provide advisory expertise for four Commercial Crew Program missions and four Commercial Resupply Services program missions – all in support of the International Space Station. Also, throughout the year, LSP will be launching numerous CubeSat missions, focused on making space accessible to educational institutions.”

Mars 2020 Rover’s Heat Shield, Back Shell Arrive at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell
The heat shield and back shell for the Mars 2020 rover are unboxed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Two vital pieces of equipment for the Mars 2020 rover were flown from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado and recently delivered to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center.

The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) on Dec. 11, 2019, and were then transported to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Built by Lockheed Martin Space, these two essential parts of the spacecraft will protect the rover during its passage to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February, 2020.

Mars 2020 rover heat shield and back shell unboxing
The heat shield and back shell will protect the Mars 2020 rover during its passage to Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

As the spacecraft descends through the Martian atmosphere, the heat shield will encounter extreme amounts of friction, creating temperatures as high as about 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The back shell contains several elements critical to landing the rover, including the parachute and antennas for communication. Some of these key components will be integrated in the months to come by the NASA-JPL team at Kennedy.

The mission is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by NASA’s Launch Services Program. It will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will carry seven different scientific instruments. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Visit the mission website for more information.