Thursday, February 11, 2010

Atlas lofts NASA Solar Observatory into Space

(updated at 12:16 pm EST) -- A NASA satellite designed to study the Sun's effect on earth, including the occurrence of severe space weather, was carried aloft this morning by an Atlas rocket from America's Space Coast.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory will set the stage as the space agency begins a new program known as Living with a Star. The SDO will spend over five years studying earth's closest star, our Sun, and the solar weather it emits and it's traverse across space and upon earth.

The solar spacecraft lifted-off atop a United Launch alliance Atlas 5 rocket today at 10:23:01 am EST, from pad 41 her at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A beautiful launch, the Atlas 5 lept from her ocean side pad going straight up an before tilting toward and easterly trajectory of 28.7 degrees inclination.

Climbing through thin clouds, the Atlas rocket's RD-180 engine burned for four minutes, 16 seconds before being jettisoned seconds later.

The protective cover over the spacecraft known as the payload fairing then split in half and separated on time.

The rocket's centaur upper stage then took over burning its RL10 engine for the next several minutes. This burn placed the spacecraft into orbital velocity. Thirteen minutes after launch, the Centaur-SDO stack was 2,040 miles east of the Cape at an altitude of 118 miles.

Following several more burns and correction firings by Centaur, the solar observatory separated at 12:11:48 pm.

It's solar arrays and antenna then deployed thus beginning the SDO's odyssey of the Sun and the solar weather it creates.

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