The Atlas V roared to life Thursday morning, February 11, to send the Solar Dynamics Observatory into space on its mission to evaluate the complex mechanisms of the sun. Liftoff came on-time at 10:23 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida's Atlantic Coast. Everything went perfectly and SDO is now into the commissioning phase of the mission. SDO first light is 33 days away.
The spacecraft is positioning into geosynchronous orbit, from which it will point its instruments at the Sun and relay the readings instantly to a ground station in New Mexico. The research is expected to reveal the Sun's inner workings by constantly taking high resolution images of the Sun, collecting readings from inside the Sun, and measuring its magnetic field activity. This data is expected to give researchers the insight they need to eventually predict solar storms and other activity on the Sun that can affect spacecraft in orbit, astronauts on the International Space Station, and electronic and other systems on Earth.
SAO built and assembled much of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument for Lockheed-Martin, and is a scientific co-Investigator institution via Dr. Leon Golub's Solar and Stellar X-ray Group in the High Energy Astrophysics Division.
For further mission information, please visit http://www.nasa.gov/sdo.