Final preparations are underway for the launch of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 9, at 11:03 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Following its Jan. 20 encapsulation inside the payload fairing at Astrotech’s processing facility in Titusville, the spacecraft was transported to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex 41 on Jan. 31.
The spacecraft, secured inside the fairing, was lifted by crane and vertically installed to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The rocket will remain inside the VIF until the day before launch, when it will then roll out to the launch complex in preparation for liftoff.
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.