The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft has made its final move on Earth: the short journey from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9. There is a two-hour launch window.
The weather forecast for launch time calls for favorable conditions. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80% chance of weather cooperating for launch.
Live 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 here on the launch blog.
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.
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.