Solar Orbiter blasts off in mission to the sun | News | DW | 10.02.2020
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Solar Orbiter blasts off in mission to the sun

A joint US-European team successfully launched a space probe from the Kennedy Space Center. Scientists hope the probe will take the first photos of the sun's polar regions on a journey that could last up to nine years.

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Solar Orbiter launches on mission to study sun's poles

A joint US-European team successfully launched the Space Orbiter probe on Sunday night from the US state of Florida on a mission to "address big questions" about the solar system, including taking the first-ever high-resolution pictures of the sun's poles.

Space Orbiter blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral at 11:03 p.m. Sunday (0403 UTC Monday) atop an Atlas V411 rocket.

The US space agency, NASA, and European Space Agency (ESA) are collaborating on the mission, which will be controlled from the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, in southwestern Germany.

Mission controllers at the center "received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed," NASA announced in a statement.

Space Orbiter is equipped with 10 scientific instruments and weighs 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds). The joint project mission came at a cost of almost €1.5 billion ($1.66 billion). The journey could last up to nine years, and the probe will reach primary scientific orbit in two years.

Solar Orbiter

The Space Orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida

What's it doing?

Information from Space Orbiter is expected to provide insights into the sun's atmosphere, its winds and its magnetic fields, including how it shapes the heliosphere, the vast swath of space that encompasses our system.

"By the end of our Solar Orbiter mission, we will know more about the hidden force responsible for the sun's changing behavior and its influence on our home planet than ever before," said Günther Hasinger, the ESA's director of science. Hasinger added that this could provide useful information about how powerful solar storms could disrupt everyday life.

kmm/ng (AP, AFP, dpa)

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