The Airbus-built Solar Orbiter satellite has been successfully mounted on top of an Atlas V 411 launch rocket and is ready to fly, Airbus announced on Tuesday. The European Space Agency (ESA) mission is designed to study “how the Sun creates and controls the giant bubble of plasma surrounding the Solar System and influences the planets within it.” The orbiter is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Feb. 9.
“After eight years of design and manufacture, Solar Orbiter is now ready to launch and to study the Sun as never before,” said Solar Orbiter Program Manager Ian Walters. “Everyone in Airbus is excited and just a little apprehensive as we approach the day when the spacecraft starts its journey to the Sun.”
According to Airbus, the Solar Orbiter is carrying ten in-situ and remote sensing instruments capable of taking photographs, recording spectra and measuring solar wind plasma, fields, waves and energetic particles. It will be making a close approach every five months, passing within 42 million kilometers (26 million miles) of the Sun where it will encounter temperatures of more than 500°C. The mission is expected to last up to ten years.