The Atlas V’s single solid rocket booster has been jettisoned. The vehicle is performing as expected. The next major milestone is cutoff of the Atlas booster’s main engine.
Liftoff! The Atlas V 411 rocket is quickly climbing away from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft on an international, collaborative mission to view the Sun like never before.
One minute until liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and Solar Orbiter spacecraft. Eastern Range is “green,” meaning it’s “go” for launch.
The countdown has resumed at T-4 minutes and counting. United Launch Alliance and NASA have polled their teams and they’re “go” for launch of the Atlas V rocket and Solar Orbiter spacecraft at 11:03 p.m. EST. The spacecraft is on internal power.
Liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is on track for 11:03 p.m. EST. Countdown clocks remain in a planned, built-in hold at the T-4 minute mark. The hold will release at 10:59 p.m. — four minutes prior to launch.
Countdown clocks have temporarily paused at the T-4 minute mark. This is a planned, 15-minute hold expected to release at 10:59 p.m. EST. Liftoff of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket remains on schedule for 11:03 p.m.
Launch Weather Officer Jessica Williams briefed the launch team just a few minutes ago. There are barely any clouds, she reported, and no precipitation expected. The potential for ground winds remains, and the overall forecast predicts a 90% chance of favorable conditions at launch time.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft stands 189 feet tall. It features the 411 configuration, which means 4-meter payload fairing, 1 solid rocket booster and a 1 engine Centaur upper stage.
Avionics and electrical connections between the spacecraft and rocket also are located on the Centaur. The booster propulsion is provided by the RD-180 engine system (a single engine with two thrust chambers). It burns liquid oxygen and Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1) a highly purified, rocket-grade kerosene. The Centaur upper stage is powered by an RL10A-4-2 engine that runs on liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
Several NASA missions have successfully launched on various configurations of the Atlas V. The 2016 launch of the agency’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft used the 411 configuration.
Tonight, Solar Orbiter will lift off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST. There is a two-hour launch window. Live coverage of the countdown and liftoff will begin at 10:30 p.m. EST, on NASA TV, NASA TV online, and here on the launch blog.
The spacecraft will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The spacecraft was developed by Airbus Defence and Space. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is managing the launch operations.
Good evening from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Just a few miles east, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket stands on Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it’s undergoing final preparations to launch the Solar Orbiter mission at 11:03 p.m. EST. There is a two-hour launch window.
At this time, propellant loading operations are complete, although cryogenic propellants will continue topping to flight levels through the remainder of the countdown. The weather forecast calls for a 90% chance of favorable conditions, although meteorologists will be watching for the possibility of ground winds.
There is one built-in hold remaining. That planned hold – a 15-minute pause in the countdown – is coming up at 10:44 p.m.
Solar Orbiter builds on the successes of previous missions to study the Sun and its effects on Earth. The mission was developed to study the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft while also observing the Sun, giving scientists a better understanding of how our star can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will be the first to provide images of the Sun’s poles. The Solar Orbiter mission is planned to last seven years.
The spacecraft is carrying a suite of 10 scientific instruments. Four are in-situ instruments, meaning they will operate continuously. These are the Energetic Particle Detector (EPD), Magnetometer (MAG), Radio and Plasma Waves (RPW), and Solar Wind Plasma Analyzer (SWA). The remaining six are remote-sensing: the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), Coronagraph (METIS), Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI), Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI), Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE), and X-ray Spectrometer/Telescope (STIX). For an in-depth look at Solar Orbiter’s scientific payload, visit https://sci.esa.int/web/solar-orbiter/-/51168-summary.
Solar Orbiter is an international cooperative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. ESA’s Engineering & Test Center (ESTEC) in The Netherlands is managing the development effort. The spacecraft has been developed by Airbus. The European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Germany will operate Solar Orbiter after launch. The Solar Orbiter mission is managed by ESA; the scientific payload elements of Solar Orbiter are being provided by ESA Member States, NASA and ESA. NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is the provider of the Atlas V launch service.
Join us for updates from the countdown starting at 10:30 p.m.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is poised for liftoff tonight from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On board is the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. Countdown clocks across the spaceport are ticking down toward scheduled liftoff at 11:03 p.m. EST. There’s a two-hour launch window.
Forecasters with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 90% chance of weather favorable for launch, with the potential for ground winds the primary concern.
Join us for updates from the countdown starting at 10:30 p.m.
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.