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NASA launches Solar Dynamic Observatory

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory launches from its Space Launch Complex. SDO is the first satellite of NASA's Living with a Star program. NASA photo

CAPE CANAVERAL (Florida), (AFP): An Atlas V rocket carrying a US solar observatory blasted off into space today from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The two-stage rocket roared off its launch pad at 1523 GMT under partially cloudy skies, after missing its first launch opportunity on Thursday due to high winds.

The NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) being boosted into space will give scientists the most detailed look ever at the surface of our sun and its complicated workings during a five year mission.

It will take 88 minutes from the launch time for the observatory to separate from the rocket. The 3.2-tonne satellite will then go into orbit some 35,880 kilometres from Earth, orbiting the planet once every 24 hours.

US scientists, who have targeted the sun as the next frontier for space research, said they hope the probe will be especially helpful in revealing how changes in the sun alter the levels of radiation and energy within our solar system.

Those changes, which scientists call space weather, can affect communications and satellite signals, electrical power lines and other objects and energy transmissions in our atmosphere and beyond.

Telescopes and other gear onboard the probe will scrutinise sunspots and solar flares using more pixels and colours than any other observatory in the history of solar physics.

NASA said the spacecraft will send about 1.5 terabytes of data back to Earth each day -- the equivalent of streaming 380 full-length movies.

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