STEREO Watches Comet ATLAS as Solar Orbiter Crosses Its Tail

Comet ATLAS swoops by the Sun.
(Credit: NASA/NRL/STEREO/Karl Battams)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO-A spacecraft, captured these images of comet ATLAS as it swooped by the Sun from May 25 – June 1. During the observations and outside STEREO’s field of view, ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft crossed one of the comet’s two tails.

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ESA’s Solar Orbiter to Pass through Tails of Comet ATLAS

Hubble Space Telescope observation of Comet ATLAS. [Credit: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA), Q. Ye (University of Maryland)]

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s Solar Orbiter will cross through the tails of Comet ATLAS during the next few days. Although the recently launched spacecraft was not due to be taking science data at this time, mission experts have worked to ensure that the four most relevant instruments will be switched on during the unique encounter.

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Solar Orbiter Launch Takes Solar Science to New Heights

Launch of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission to study the Sun from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 9, 2020. (Credits: Jared Frankle, NASA Solar Orbiter Social Participant)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Solar Orbiter, a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun, launched at 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

At 12:24 a.m. Monday, mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed.

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Atlas V Launches Solar Orbiter

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.

ESA, NASA’s Solar Orbiter Soon to Launch on Voyage to Sun

Animation of a portion of Solar Orbiter’s highly inclined orbit. (Credits: ESA/ATG medialab)

by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — It will be a dark winter’s night when Solar Orbiter launches from Florida on its journey to the source of all light on Earth, the Sun.

The mission, a collaboration between ESA (the European Space Agency) and NASA, is scheduled to begin Feb. 9, 2020, during a two-hour launch window that opens at 11:03 p.m. EST. The two-ton spacecraft launches from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

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How ESA-NASA’s Solar Orbiter Beats the Heat

An animation of Solar Orbiter peering at the Sun through peepholes in its heat shield. (Credits: ESA/ATG medialab)

by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — When Solar Orbiter launches on its journey to the Sun, there’s one key piece of engineering making this ESA-NASA mission possible: the heat shield.

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 in line with the Sun’s equator, through which the planets orbit. Slinging repeatedly past Venus in order to draw near the Sun and climb higher above the ecliptic, the spacecraft bounds from the Sun and back toward the orbit of Earth throughout its mission.

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United Launch Alliance Set to Launch Solar Orbiter for NASA and ESA

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Feb. 7, 2020 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the Solar Orbiter mission, an international cooperative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The launch is on track for Feb. 9 at Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Launch is planned for 11:03 p.m. EST at the opening of a two-hour launch window. The live launch broadcast begins at 10:30 p.m. EST on NASA TV at and www.ulalaunch.com.

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NASA to Broadcast Solar Orbiter Launch, Prelaunch Activities

In this image, taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on Feb. 27, 2000, a coronal mass ejection is seen erupting from the Sun, which is hidden by the disk in the middle, so the fainter material around it can be seen. (Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is targeting 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 9, for the launch of Solar Orbiter, an international collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

Live coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website  Friday, Feb. 7, with prelaunch events.

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Germany Invests 3.3 Billion Euros in European Space Exploration, Becomes ESA’s Largest Contributor

  • Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
  • Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
  • At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
  • The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
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