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Atlas V Launches Solar Orbiter

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 9, 2020
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The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is prepared for encapsulation in the Atlas V payload fairing. In this image, the front layer of thin titanium foil and star-shaped brackets are visible. The front layer reflects heat, while the brackets provide support. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster successfully launched the joint ESA-NASA Solar Orbiter on a mission to study the Sun from Cape Canaveral on Sunday night.

Ground controllers confirmed the receipt of a signal from the spacecraft after it separated from the Centaur second stage of the launch vehicle.

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.

2 responses to “Atlas V Launches Solar Orbiter”

  1. Saturn1300 says:

    Did you see the huge number of controllers ULA needs to launch Atlas? I think Apollo might have had less. There might be over a hundred. I bet OmeGa SRB will not have that many and SpaceX does not seem to have that many. Looks like in this day and age computers could handle it.

    • duheagle says:

      I think ULA’s launches are somewhat more labor-intensive than SpaceX’s but not by nearly as much as it seems from their respective webcasts. In fairness to ULA, coverage of ULA’s launches tends to feature a lot of console sitters, often in multiple locations, who work for NASA or USAF as nearly all ULA’s launches are of government payloads. In the case of SpaceX launches, we never see the payload controllers except for a few more butts in seats in Hawthorne when the payload is one of SpaceX’s own Dragons. Just a difference in how ULA sets up its webcasts compared to SpaceX.

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