Solar Orbiter set for liftoff to capture historic images of sun

The latest launch from Cape Canaveral will aim to capture the first images of the sun's north and south poles.

The Solar Orbiter will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday night. It is a joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA. It will be carried on an Atlas V rocket.

"The spacecraft ... and the range equipment are all ready, and our combined government and contract launch team is ready to launch (the) Solar Orbiter on its amazing journey to study the sun," launch director Tim Dunn said.

The Solar Orbiter is equipped with 10 state-of-the-art instruments from NASA and the European Space Agency, which will provide scientists with data. The spacecraft will complement the work already being done by the Parker Solar Probe, which was launched by NASA in 2018.

In addition to capturing the images of the sun’s poles, the joint mission will also study the sun’s outer atmosphere and solar wind, helping scientists better forecast space weather events.

“As we move out into space, as we start doing businesses out in space, NASA and the commercial communities will all be working together, and the data from missions like this creates predictive model(s) so we’ll be able to protect our astronauts, protect our assets,” said Alan Zide, Solar Orbiter program executive.

The Solar Orbiter’s mission is expected to last about a decade.

Ahead of the Solar Orbiter launch, NASA and Boeing officials on Friday afternoon acknowledged an issue with a mission-elapsed timer during the Starliner’s orbital flight test.

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