NASA preps for Thursday night launch
$1.1 billion mission preparations underway
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to roll to its pad this morning in preparation for a 10:44 p.m. Thursday blastoff with a $1.1 billion NASA science mission.
Local 6 News Partner Florida Today report a readiness review on Tuesday concluded with a "go" to proceed with the rollout and other preparations for launch of the Magnetosperic Multiscale mission, or MMS.
"We're all looking forward to a great launch on Thursday night," said Vernon Thorp, ULA's program manager for NASA missions, during a news briefing Tuesday at Kennedy Space Center.
Air Force meteorologists predict a 70 percent chance of good weather during the 30-minute window at Launch Complex 41, with the formation of thick and cumulus clouds potential concerns.
The 195-foot rocket is scheduled to begin rolling from a processing tower a short distance to the pad at 10 a.m. today.
Atop the rocket are four identical spacecraft stacked on top of each other, each measuring about four feet tall and 12 feet across.
The four observatories will fly in a pyramid formation, equipped with 100 instruments, to study a fundamental physics phenomenon called "magnetic reconnection."
That's a process in which magnetic fields interact, tear each other apart with explosive bursts of energy and then reform.
The events are responsible for solar storms that can endanger spacecraft and power grids on Earth, and have frustrated attempts to harness nuclear fusion in laboratories.
"Exactly how magnetic energy is destroyed in a reconnection event is completely unknown," said Jim Burch, the mission's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "The MMS mission will conduct a definitive experiment in space that will finally allow us to understand how magnetic reconnection works."
The launch will be ULA's third of 10 planned this year from the Cape, and the 53rd by the company's Atlas V rocket.
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