ESA’s new Sun explorer will be launched from Cape Canaveral on 10 February (European time). Media are invited to Europe’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to follow the launch and moment of signal acquisition.
**Note: this article was updated on 31 January. NASA, ESA, Airbus and United Launch Alliance are now targeting Sunday 9 February 23:03 EST (04:03 GMT / 05:03 CET Monday 10 February) for the launch of the Solar Orbiter mission on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch has a two-hour window.**
Facing the Sun
Solar Orbiter, an ESA-led mission with strong NASA participation, will provide the first views of the Sun’s unchartered polar regions from high-latitudes, giving unprecedented insight into how our parent star works. This important mission will also investigate the Sun-Earth connection, helping us to better understand and predict periods of stormy space weather.
Over the course of its mission, the spacecraft will use the gravity of Venus to slingshot it out of the ecliptic plane of the Solar System, giving us new perspectives on our parent star. It will follow an elliptical orbit around the Sun, passing within the orbit of Mercury at its closest. Cutting-edge heatshield technology will ensure the spacecraft’s scientific instruments are protected as they face up to 13 times the heating of satellites in Earth orbit.
Solar Orbiter will use a combination of ten in situ and remote-sensing instruments to observe the turbulent solar surface, its hot outer atmosphere and changes in the solar wind. The mission will also work with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, collecting complementary datasets that will allow more science to be distilled from the two missions than either could achieve on their own.
Experts will present the mission, its technical challenges and scientific goals during a dedicated media briefing at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC).
Programme outline 10 February (all times local CET)
04:00 Doors open
04:15 Programme begins
Experts will present the mission, supplemented with live transmissions from Cape Canaveral (USA) including the moment of liftoff at 05:03 CET. The spacecraft will separate from the launcher around 53 minutes after launch, followed by the announcement of acquisition of spacecraft signal, which will be communicated live from ESOC by Flight Director Andrea Accomazzo.
- Rolf Densing, ESA Director of Operations and Head of ESOC
- Mark McCaughrean, ESA Senior Advisor for Science & Exploration
- Jayne Lefort, ESA Science Operations Lead for Solar Orbiter
- Joachim Woch, Solar Orbiter instrument scientist, MPS, Uni Göttingen
- Daniel Verscharen, Solar Orbiter instrument scientist, University College London
- Alexi Glover, ESA Space Weather Office, Space Safety Programme
- Didier Morançais, Head of Future Science Program at Airbus
A Q&A session and opportunities for further individual interview opportunities will be included in the programme.
07:30 End of Press briefing and breakfast
(Times and speaker line up subject to change. The liftoff time reflects the start of the two-hour launch window each day).
Access media kit here.
How to apply
Media with valid press credentials should register by 2 February at
The event will be hosted in the ESOC media centre:
The launch will be livestreamed at https://www.esa.int/esawebtv (check website for updates)
Images of Solar Orbiter
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Videos of Solar Orbiter
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About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.
ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.
ESA has established formal cooperation with seven Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.
Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int
For further information, please contact:
ESA Newsroom and Media Relations
Tel: +33 1 53697504