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Atlas V launches solar observatory from Cape Canaveral

2/11/2010 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- Officials from the 45th Space Wing here launched a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 here at 10:23 a.m. EST Feb. 11.

The rocket carried the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA spacecraft, which will study the sun and its dynamic behavior.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory's onboard telescopes will scrutinize sunspots and solar flares using more pixels and colors than any other observatory in the history of solar physics, and will reveal the sun's hidden secrets in photographs.

"The 45th Space Wing is pleased to participate with NASA and our mission partners to launch this important solar observatory," said Brig. Gen. Edward L. "Ed" Bolton Jr., the 45th Space Wing commander. "We are proud to support NASA's scientific missions to unlock the secrets of the universe."

By better understanding the sun and how it works, scientists hope to better predict "space weather," providing earlier warnings to protect astronauts and satellites.

The launch's success shows how teamwork is crucial, not just within the Air Force, but between agencies and the wing's mission partners who are members of the launch team, General Bolton said.

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