February 12, 2010 – Cape Canaveral, Florida — NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, lifted off Thursday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a first-of-a-kind mission to reveal the sun's inner workings.
The launch aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:23 a.m. EST., after NASA had postponed the launch three times Wednesday because of high winds.
According to NASA, the SDO spacecraft is in good shape midway through the launch phase that will eventually place it in an elongated orbit reaching more than 21,000 miles high. Eventually, SDO’s orbit will be circularized and will reach about 22,300 miles in what is called geosynchronous orbit.
From that altitude, the spacecraft will point its instruments at the sun and relay the readings instantly to a ground station in New Mexico. SDO will take images of the sun every 0.75 seconds and daily send back about 1.5 terabytes of data to Earth — the equivalent of streaming 380 full-length movies.
"This is going to be sensational," said Richard R. Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA. "SDO is going to make a huge step forward in our understanding of the sun and its effects on life and society."
The sun's dynamic processes affect everyone and everything on Earth. SDO will explore activity on the sun that can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS communications. SDO also will provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate.
The mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living With A Star. The SDO project is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, lifted off at 10:23 a.m. EST Thursday on a mission to reveal the sun’s inner workings. Photo credit: NASA
The SDO's spacecraft bus as it is lowered over the propulsion module. Photo credit: NASA