THE ACCURATE LAUNCH of a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS booster in December 1995 has ensured that the European Space Agency's (ESA) Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) will be operational for at least 20 years, rather than six years as originally planned, says ESA.

The satellite will reach its operational station in solar orbit, 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, on 14 March, two weeks earlier than planned because the launch left more on-board propellant than expected.

The SOHO, will be operated from the Langrange point, where the gravitational pull of the Earth and Sun are equal. It will provide data complementing solar-effects information from a fleet of international spacecraft (including the Polar satellite to be launched by a Delta 2 from Vandenberg AFB, California, on 22 February) and the four Cluster satellites to be flown aboard the first Ariane 5 booster this May.

Source: Flight International