NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which will study the Sun in unprecedented detail and its effects on Earth, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, July 9.
The spacecraft left NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, July 7, where it was built and tested.
SDO will undergo final testing at Astrotech Space Operations, located near Kennedy Space Center, in preparation for its anticipated November launch. Engineers will perform comprehensive tests to ensure SDO can withstand the stresses and vibrations of the launch itself, as well as what it will encounter in its space environment after launch.
After the final tests are completed, SDO will move to launch complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the spacecraft into orbit.
SDO will take measurements and images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths for at least 5 years during its primary science mission. The spacecraft will collect a staggering 1.5 terabytes of data daily, the equivalent of downloading a half million songs a day.
Space weather results from changes on the Sun, called solar activity. Active regions on the Sun can erupt suddenly and violently, usually in the form of a solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME).
Flares and CMEs can send millions of tons of solar material and charged particles streaming toward Earth on the solar wind. When the star stuff reaches Earth’s atmosphere, it can damage orbiting satellites and wreak havoc on navigation systems and the power grid. Understanding space weather requires knowing the nature of changes that happen on the Sun.
SDO is the first space weather research network mission in NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements will give solar scientists in-depth information about changes in the Sun’s magnetic field and insight into how those changes affect Earth.