The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is a NASA mission which will observe the Sun for over five years. Launched on February 11, 2010, the observatory is part of the Living With a Star (LWS) program. The goal of the LWS program is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected Sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society. SDO's goal is to understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously. SDO will investigate how the Sun's magnetic field is generated and structured and how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance.
The SDO spacecraft was built and tested at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and launched on February 11, 2010, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The primary mission is scheduled to last 5 years and 3 months, with expendables expected to last for 10 years. Some consider SDO to be a follow-on mission to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
SDO will downlink science data (K-band) from its two onboard high-gain antennas, and engineering data (S-band) from its two onboard omni-directional antennas. The ground station consists of two dedicated (redundant) 18-meter radio antennas in White Sands, New Mexico, constructed specifically for SDO. The combined data rate will be about 130 Mbit/s (150 Mbit/s with overhead, or 300 Mbit/s 2:1 convolutionally encoded). The SDO will generate approximately 1.5 Terabytes of data per day.
SDO will periodically use the Universal Space Network antenna at South Point, Hawaii to provide additional tracking resolution. Mission controllers will operate the spacecraft remotely from the Mission Operations Center at NASA's GSFC.
The launch vehicle is an Atlas V rocket. The SDO launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The initial perigee will be about 2500 km, after which SDO will undergo a series of orbit-raising maneuvers until the nominal orbit is reached.
SDO is a 3-axis stabilized spacecraft with two solar arrays and two high-gain antennas.
SDO will orbit at 36,000 km in a circular geosynchronous orbit at 102° W longitude inclined at 28.5°.