ULA To Launch International Heliophysics Mission in 2017

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Solar Orbiter, a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency, will launch in 2017 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the U.S. agency said March 18. 

NASA is paying ULA $172.7 million for the launch, the agency said in a press release. 

Solar Orbiter is set to launch in July 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a seven-year primary mission to study the sun and its outer atmosphere. The spacecraft will take three years just to reach its intended orbit, NASA said. 

NASA is providing two of Solar Orbiter’s 10 instruments. The remaining eight are contributions from ESA member nations, according to NASA’s press release. Airbus Defence and Space is ESA’s prime contractor for the Solar Orbiter spacecraft.