Twin satellites to track space weather

By on August 26, 2012
Radiation Belt Storm Probe

NASA plans to launch twin satellites this weekend to monitor space weather, which affects our daily lives in ways people may not notice, according to a University of Iowa press release.

The satellites will monitor for coronal mass ejections, which release billions of tons of charged particles from the sun into space, according to the release. They will also examine particles that cause space weather in two radiation belts which surround the Earth.

Space weather affects daily life by disabling satellites, causing power surges and disrupting cell phone signals.

The satellites will be launched together on one rocket and will orbit on the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The satellites will travel at different speeds so that one follows the other. This will give scientist two reference points from identical surveying instruments which should eliminate doubts about instrument variations, said Craig Kletzing, a University of Iowa physics professor who led the design of some of the satellite’s instrumentation.

Teams from the University of Iowa, University of New Hampshire, University of Minnesota, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the National Reconnaissance Office all helped design the satellites, which were built at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Image: An illustration of one of the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes satellites in tandem orbit above the Earth. (Credit: NASA)

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