SDO | Mission

About The SDO Mission

SDO: The Solar Dynamics Observatory is the first mission to be launched for NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program, a program designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. SDO is designed to help us 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's goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity's technological systems by determining

  • how the Sun's magnetic field is generated and structured
  • 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.


  • SDO launched on February 11, 2010, 10:23 am EST on an Atlas V from SLC 41 from Cape Canaveral.


SDO will study how solar activity is created and how Space Weather comes from that activity. Measurements of the interior of the Sun, the Sun's magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the irradiance that creates the ionospheres of the planets are our primary data products.



SDO will fly three scientific experiments:

  • Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA)
  • EUV Variability Experiment (EVE)
  • Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI)

Each of these experiments perform several measurements that characterize how and why the Sun varies. These three instruments will observe the Sun simultaneously, performing the entire range of measurements necessary to understand the variations on the Sun.



SDO is a sun-pointing semi-autonomous spacecraft that will allow nearly continuous observations of the Sun with a continuous science data downlink rate of 130 Megabits per second (Mbps). The spacecraft is 4.5 meters high and over 2 meters on each side, weighing a total of 3100 kg (fuel included). SDO's inclined geosynchronous orbit was chosen to allow continuous observations of the Sun and enable its exceptionally high data rate through the use of a single dedicated ground station.


Mission Brochure

A brochure that outlines mission overview, objectives, and science investigations


SDO Guide


Data Rights and Rules for Data Use

The SDO science investigators agree to abide the Rules of the Road developed for the Sun-Earth Connection and its successor, the Heliophysics Division. These are:

  1. The Principal Investigators (PI) shall make available to the science data user community (Users) the same access methods to reach the data and tools as the PI uses.
  2. The PI shall notify Users of updates to processing software and calibrations via metadata and other appropriate documentation.
  3. Users shall consult with the PI to ensure that the Users are accessing the most recent available versions of the data and analysis routines.
  4. Browse products are not intended for science analysis or publication and should not be used for those purposes without consent of the PI.
  5. Users shall acknowledge the sources of data used in all publications and reports.
  6. Users shall include in publications the information necessary to allow others to access the particular data used.
  7. Users shall transmit to the PI a copy of each manuscript that uses the PI's data upon submission of that manuscript for consideration of publication.
  8. Users are encouraged to make tools of general utility widely available to the community.
  9. Users are also encouraged to make available value-added data products. Users producing such products must notify the PI and must clearly label the product as being different from the original PI-produced data product. Producers of value-added products should contact the PI to ensure that such products are based on the most recent versions of the data and analysis routines. With mutual agreement, Users may work with the PI to enhance the instrument data processing system, by integrating their products and tools.
  10. The editors and referees of scientific journals should avail themselves of the expertise of the PI while a data set is still unfamiliar to the community, and when it is uncertain whether authors have employed the most up-to-date data and calibrations.