Thursday, January 21, 2010

SDO placed in fairing, on track for February launch

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft is being covered for flight today in Titusville, and officials believe the mission is still on track for a Feb. 9 launch.

Managers will discuss the unmanned science mission during a televised briefing starting at 1 p.m. today. Click here to open a NASA TV video player and watch the briefing live.

United Launch Alliance is analyzing the Russian-built RD-180 engine on its Atlas V rocket after a Russian rocket experienced problems that prompted a review.

NASA spokesman George Diller said no problems have been found with the Atlas V scheduled to blast off with the SDO spacecraft at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 9 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41.

But a process is underway to determine if the RD-180 engine powering the rocket's first stage has a common parts with the other Russian engine, and if so that they are cleared of any concerns.

"It's a standard procedure you have to go through," said Diller. "We've got enough confidence to go ahead and encapsulate the spacecraft and prepare to go to the launch pad."

"We're still on track," he said.

Today, the payload fairing is being fitted around the SDO spacecraft at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville.

SDO is scheduled to be delivered to the launch pad Jan. 26, and a flight readiness review is planned Feb. 3.

NASA and ULA on Wednesday completed a successful wet dress rehearsal, fueling the rocket's core booster and Centaur upper stage and running through a mock countdown.

The rocket will be rolled back to its Vertical Integration Facility hangar this afternoon.

The SDO mission -- planned two days after the launch of shuttle Endeavour from Kennedy Space Center -- will be the Cape's first flight this year.

IMAGE NOTE: At the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville on Oct. 19, 2009, the high-gain communications antenna on the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is moved into a stowed position following testing to verify the spacecraft's readiness for launch. SDO is the first space weather research network mission in NASA's Living With a Star Program. The spacecraft's long-term measurements will give solar scientists in-depth information about changes in the sun's magnetic field and insight into how they affect Earth. For information on SDO, visit Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

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