Rocket Launch Today From Cape Canaveral, Florida Updates

The launch of a Solar Orbiter spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 configuration rocket remains on track for liftoff at 11:03 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 9, 2020, from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – The launch of a Solar Orbiter spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 configuration rocket remains on track for liftoff at 11:03 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 9, 2020, from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch window is open for two hours.

After launch, the Solar Orbiter will travel out of our solar system’s planetary ecliptic plane to ultimately reach a polar orbit around the Sun.

Because it takes extra energy to place a spacecraft out of the ecliptic plane, the Solar Orbiter will first use a slingshot maneuver around Earth and then once again around Venus.

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Cape Canaveral Weather 80% ‘GO’

According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 80% chance of favorable weather for the launch at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The primary weather concerns for launch are cumulus clouds and ground winds.

Solar Orbiter Mission

This joint European Space Agency and NASA mission will capture the first images of the Sun’s north and south poles.

Like Earth’s own North and South poles, the Sun’s poles are extreme regions quite different from the rest of the Sun. They’re covered in coronal holes, cooler stretches where the fast solar wind comes gushing from.

There, scientists hope to find the footprints of knotted magnetic fields underlying solar activity.

Many think the poles hold the first clues to the intensity of the next solar cycle, which comes roughly every 11 years, as the Sun swings from seasons of high to low activity.

Enabling the Solar Orbiter’s scorching voyage is a heat shield sporting a black coating of calcium phosphate, a charcoal-like powder similar to pigments used in cave paintings tens of thousands of years ago.

All but one of the spacecraft’s telescopes peer through holes in the heat shield.

At the closest approach, the front of the shield will near 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the instruments tucked behind it will remain at a comfortable range — for them — between minus 4 F and 122 F above zero.