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Solar Orbiter arrives at Kennedy Space Center for start-up training – Spaceflight Now

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrived at the Kennedy Space Center shortly after 9:00 PM. EDT Friday (01:00 GMT Saturday) following a transatlantic voyage from Germany on board an Antonov An-124 transport aircraft. Credit: ESA / J. Fiebrich

The European Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrived in Florida late Friday after a transatlantic voyage from a test center in Germany, ready to launch preparations for launch from Cape Canaveral in February aboard the United Launch Alliance rocket Atlas 5 ".

Packed in a controlled climate container, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft rides an Antonov An-124 transport aircraft from Munich to the landing facility at the NASA Space Center in Florida, where the aircraft descends shortly after 9 pm EDT Friday (01:00 GMT Saturday).

The spacecraft, built by Airbus Defense and Space, was expected to be transported by road to Astrotech's satellite processing facility in nearby Titusville, where ground-based crews will spend the next two-and-a-half monthly fueling tests and the willingness of the Solar Orbiter to take off.

Ten scientific instruments aboard the solar orbiter will measure the sun's output and produce the first detailed images of the solar poles. NASA is paying for the launch of the European Space Agency's science probe as part of international cooperation for a nearly $ 1.7 billion solar orbiter mission.

Scientists will use data from the Solar Orbiter, in a tandem with NASA's Parker solar probe measurements, to better understand what causes the solar wind and what drives the 11-year solar cycle.

"The solar arbiter is obviously a new class in its own right," Hassinger said. "There are many tools that will come closer than Parker's Solar Probe, but quite close. Solar Orbiter will also have eyes. Solar Probe Parker can only sense and measure plasma and magnetic field, but Solar Orbiter also has six instruments that can really look at the sun, which is quite a challenge when you think it reaches an environment of about 600 degrees Celsius. Celsius (1100 degrees Fahrenheit). It's like being in a pizza oven, so you have to make sure you don't burn the tools. "

The Parker solar probe, released last year, faces much hotter conditions under which hot temperatures would melt any camera exposed to

. After launch, Solar Orbiter or SolO will use gravity-assisted fly agitators with Earth. and Venus, putting the spacecraft in orbit inside that of Mercury in 2022. The last orbit of the Solar Orbiter will bring the spacecraft within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) of the sun.

The concept of the artist for the spacecraft "Solar Orbiter". Credit: ESA

Planetary flywheels will also use gravity to push the orbiter into an inclined orbit around the sun beyond the plane of the planets.

"An additional interesting element that has never been done so far is that Solar Orbiter will be able to depict the poles of the sun," said Heisinger. "There are still mysteries about our understanding of the energy sources of the sun, which produces magnetic fields and solar flames. Now many people think that some of the mysteries are actually hidden in poles that we have never seen. "

" The solar orbiter is a scientific mission that will approach the sun to make decisive measurements and try to find out how the heliosphere of the sun works, "said Cesar Garcia, ESA's Solar Orbiter Project Manager. "To that end, it carries a series of instruments, in fact 10 instruments. Some of them will make measurements on the spot. They will pick up particles as they emerge from the sun.

"At the same time, they will make remote images and spectrographs of the sun's surface, of the sun's corona, and of the solar heliosphere to try to correct what is happening in those areas of the sun with the circulating particles." said Garcia.

The American Startup Union plans to transport components from the Atlas 5 Solar Orbiter to Cape Canaveral later this month from the company's plant in Decatur, Alabama. [19659003] Solar Orbiter will launch in the rarely used Atlas 5 configuration, known as the "411" version, with a single solid rocket booster strap on one side of the Atlas 5 kerosene fuel stage.

5 for Solar Orbiter will start on January 3 at the Canaveral & # 39; s Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility. Wet dress rehearsal or refueling test is scheduled for January 21 on Tampon 41. Then the Solar Orbiter will will be added to the top of the Atlas 5 rocket launcher scheduled for h at 11:27 AM EST on February 5 (0427 GMT on February 6), the first of 19 daily launch launches in February.

If the launch does not occur in February, the next mission launch period will open in October 2020, when Earth and Venus are again in the correct position in the solar system to make the planetary interplanetary trajectory possible.

There is some concern among ESA and NASA teams that the launch of the Solar Orbiter may be affected by a further delay until the scheduled launch of the Boeing Staringer Commercial Capsule in an unmanned test flight on December 17 atlas 5 space station.

Both missions will use the same launch site on Cape Canaveral.

The human-rated spacecraft is one of two new commercial crew capsules, NASA is funding – together with SpaceX's Crew Dragon – to end US reliance on Russian Soyuz ferries to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Both new vehicles are delayed, and NASA is eager to launch space shuttle astronauts for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

Tim Dunn, NASA's starting director for the Solar Orbiter Mission "said last month's Solar Orbiter launch campaign could be affected if Starliner's launch is delayed after about December 27th. The Starliner test flight is a major demonstration before the Boeing crew cap is cleared to launch astronauts into orbit next year.

NASA has a role to play in both Starliner and Solar Orbiter missions, and delays in the Boeing crew capsule flight test may force agency executives to decide which mission will ultimately receive top priority in the launch of the ULA Manifesto.

In addition to the high priority assigned to the NASA Commercial Crew Program, the limited launch capabilities of a planetary solar orbiter, previous spacecraft delays, and the international nature of the mission may also affect the Agency's Decision.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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