At the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Fla., Boeing spacecraft fueling technicians from Kennedy Space Center prepare the equipment necessary to sample the monomethylhydrazine propellant that will be loaded aboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO.
The hydrazine fuel is being sampled for purity before it is loaded aboard the spacecraft. The technicians are dressed in self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits, or SCAPE suits, as a safety precaution in the unlikely event that any of the highly toxic chemical should escape from the storage tank. The nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer was loaded earlier in the week which is customarily followed by loading of the fuel. Propellant loading is one of the final processing milestones before the spacecraft is encapsulated in its fairing for launch. SDO is the first mission in NASA's Living With a Star Program and is designed to study the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft's long-term measurements will give solar scientists in-depth information to help characterize the interior of the Sun, the Sun's magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the density of radiation that creates the ionosphere of the planets. The information will be used to create better forecasts of space weather needed to protect the aircraft, satellites and astronauts living and working in space. Liftoff aboard an Atlas V rocket is targeted for Feb. 9 from Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. For information on SDO, visit http://www.nasa.gov/sdo. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller