The Centaur’s main engine has completed its second and final burn, positioning the Solar Orbiter spacecraft for the transfer orbit it needs in order to head toward the Sun and begin its mission. Standing by for separation of Solar Orbiter from the vehicle in about three minutes. Following separation, the team will wait to hear the acquisition of the spacecraft’s signal.
Solar Orbiter launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 11:03 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Solar Orbiter is an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The spacecraft 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.