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Solar Dynamics Observatory



SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) is the first in a series of missions in the Living With a Star program. The spacecraft is three-axis-stabilized, sun-pointing, in an inclined (28 degree) geosynchronous orbit. The mission's primary goal is to understand and, ideally, predict the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity's technological systems. SDO will do this by determining 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 brightness.

The spacecraft carries three instruments: the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE), and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI). AIA images the dynamic solar atmosphere in multiple wavelengths to link changes in the surface to those in the interior. EVE measures the solar extreme ultraviolet irradiance variations based on the sun's magnetic features. It helps scientists to understand the Sun's role in driving the outer atmosphere of Earth. HMI studies the origin of solar variability by characterizing and developing an understanding of the sun's interior and the various components of its magnetic activity. It extends the capabilities of the SOHO/MDI instrument to continuous full-disk coverage at higher spatial resolution and vector magnetograms.

The combined data rate is about 130 Mbit/s (150 Mbit/s with overhead, or 300 Msymbols/s with rate 1/2 convolutional encoding), and the craft will generate approximately 1.5 terabytes of data per day, beaming back 150 million bits of data every second or the equivalent of 380 full-length Hollywood movies. The prime mission is planned for five years, at the end of which the mission could be granted a five-year extension.

Alternate Names

  • 36395
  • SDO
  • SDO

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2010-02-11
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 270 kg
Nominal Power: 1540 W

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Science Mission Directorate (United States)


  • Space Physics
  • Solar Physics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Barbara J. ThompsonDeputy Project ScientistNASA Goddard Space Flight
Dr. William Dean PesnellProject ScientistNASA Goddard Space Flight
Dr. Thomas D. MillerDeputy Project ManagerNASA Goddard Space Flight
Dr. Phillip ChamberlinDeputy Project ScientistNASA Goddard Space Flight
Ms. Elizabeth A. CitrinProject ManagerNASA Goddard Space Flight
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