At the Skid Strip on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a crane prepares to lift the Centaur second stage for the Atlas V rocket slated to launch NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, onto a transporter. The stage was delivered aboard the Volga-Dnepr Antonov AN-124-100, a Ukranian/Russian aircraft, at right.
SDO is the first space weather research network mission in NASA's Living With a Star Program. The spacecraft's long-term measurements will give solar scientists in-depth information about changes in the sun's magnetic field and insight into how they affect Earth. Liftoff on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2010. For information on SDO, visit http://www.nasa.gov/sdo. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann