The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is ready for shipment from a test center in Ottobrunn, Germany, to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final launch preparations. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft — assembled in Britain and set for liftoff in February — has completed environmental testing in Germany and is scheduled to ride a cargo plane to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin launch preparations 31 October, several weeks earlier than planned to avoid complications stemming from Brexit.
The robotic solar probe will be packaged inside a pristine shipping container for the trans-Atlantic flight from Germany to the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at Kennedy. Ground teams will then transport the spacecraft to the Astrotech processing facility just outside the space centre for final functional tests, fuelling and encapsulation inside the payload shroud of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
The mission is jointly managed and funded by ESA, individual European member states, and NASA, with the U.S. space agency responsible for providing a launch for Solar Orbiter.
Liftoff of the Atlas 5 with Solar Orbiter from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad is scheduled during a two-hour window opening at ...