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Monday, August 14, 2006

STEREO spacecraft to view sun in 3D

The STEREO spacecraft is checked out at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville¸ Fla. in preparation for planned Aug. 31 flight on a Boeing Delta II rocket.

Boeing, working with NASA, hosted 10 media organizations as they viewed the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft Friday preceding its fueling and encapsulation at the Astrotech Space Operations facility. STEREO is set to launch on a Boeing Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 17-B at 3:12 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 31, from Space Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Once in space, STEREO will divide into two spacecraft whose primary mission is to provide the first ever 3-D "stereo" images of the Sun by observing the same area from two different locations. STEREO will study how coronal mass ejections affect the Earth, its atmosphere and space weather.

During the two-year mission, the twin space-based observatories will explore the origin, evolution and interplanetary consequences of coronal mass ejections, the most intense explosions in our solar system. When directed at Earth, these powerful eruptions affect satellite operations, radio communications and power systems.

In addition, the forces related to the solar eruptions are hazardous to scientific spacecraft and astronauts. This is especially important information to learn for astronauts who will one day make a trip to Mars.

The STEREO mission will be the 318th launch in the history of Boeing’s Delta program. Boeing Delta IIs have carried payloads into orbit both for government and commercial customers, including NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office as well as a variety of commercial customers.

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