NASA And ESA’s Solar Orbiter Launched (Photo Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
To study the Sun, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) has launched the Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 9.33 AM (IST). It is to be noted that 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. There was a two-hour launch window. Also, live coverage of the countdown and liftoff began at 9.00 AM (IST), on NASA TV and NASA TV online.
In a series of tweet, We have liftoff of #SolarOrbiter at 11:03pm ET atop @ULAlaunch’s #AtlasV rocket as the spacecraft begins its journey to snap the first pictures of the Sun’s north and south poles.
3-2-1 LIFTOFF! ðŸš€ We have liftoff of #SolarOrbiter at 11:03pm ET atop @ULAlaunch’s #AtlasV rocket as the spacecraft begins its journey to snap the first pictures of the Sun’s north and south poles. Watch: https://t.co/W3wMEfPxvB pic.twitter.com/0F6Jk6vhML— NASA (@NASA) February 10, 2020
With a powerful array of 10 instruments, Solar Orbiter is like a lab in orbit, designed to study the Sun and its outbursts in great detail. According to the NASA, Seeking a view of the Sun’s north and south poles, Solar Orbiter will journey out of the ecliptic plane — the belt of space, roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator, through which the planets orbit. Slinging past Earth and repeatedly around Venus, the spacecraft will draw near the Sun and climb higher above the ecliptic until it has a bird’s eye view of the poles.
It is worth mentioning here that Solar Orbiter will try to answer basic questions about the Sun, whose every burp and breeze holds sway over the solar system. What drives the solar wind, the gust of charged particles constantly blowing from the Sun? Or, what churning deep inside the Sun generates its magnetic field? How does the Sun’s magnetic field shape the heliosphere, the vast bubble of space dominated by our star?
Teams are reporting good performance so far of the #SolarOrbiter launch. Watch as @ULAlaunch’s #AtlasV continues to propel the spacecraft on its journey to the Sun: https://t.co/W3wMEfPxvB pic.twitter.com/xq4eO4U3vL— NASA (@NASA) February 10, 2020
Over the next seven years, Solar Orbiter will travel as close as 26 million miles to the Sun — closing about two-thirds the distance from Earth to the star. It will climb 24 degrees above the ecliptic for a vista of the poles and the far side of the Sun.
The operations team will conduct three months of commissioning to ensure the instruments are operating properly. Once this check-out period is complete, the in situ instruments will turn on and the remote-sensing instruments will remain in cruising mode until Solar Orbiter’s first solar approach in November 2021.