February 9th, NASA launches Solar Orbiter
Updated: Jun 28, 2020
11:03 pm EST, On top of ULA's Atlas V, the Solar Orbiter takes flight from LC-41 at Cape Canaveral
Photo credit: Theresa Cross
Solar Orbiter will address questions about our solar system to help us understand how our star creates and controls the bubble of plasma that surrounds the entire solar system, and influences the planets within it. The mission, a collaboration of the European Space Agency, and NASA set off to study the sun Sunday night. The mission will be in "cruise" phase until November 2021. During this time the instruments will gather scientific data about the environment around the spacecraft, and focus on calibrations to prepare for scientific operations near the sun.
The cruise phase includes three gravity assists that Solar Orbiter will use to draw its orbit closer to the Sun: two past Venus in December 2020 and August 2021, and one past Earth in November 2021.