DULLES, Va., 28 Sept. 2007. Orbital Sciences Corp. announced that Dawn, its first interplanetary spacecraft, was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Lift-off of the Delta II launch vehicle occurred Sept. 27 at 7:34 a.m. and approximately one hour later, Dawn separated from the final stage of the rocket. Initial data from the spacecraft indicates it is operating as planned early in the mission.
The primary objective of NASA's Dawn mission is to advance understanding of the origin and evolution of the solar system by rendezvousing with and studying Vesta and Ceres, which are located in the main asteroid belt, a large region located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Both large asteroids, also known as "protoplanets," are believed to have formed at the same time and in similar environments as Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.