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August 20 – 26, 2012 / Vol 31, No 34 / Hawai`i Island, USA

17 Aug 2012, 20:22 UTC
August 20 – 26, 2012 / Vol 31, No 34 / Hawai`i Island, USA
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Twin Probes Investigate Radiation Belts to Advance Scientific Understanding, Space Exploration
The NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission is set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 04:08 EDT on August 23 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission, scheduled to last 2 years at a cost of over US $600 million, will explore the most violent regions of near-Earth space: the Van Allen radiation belts, two doughnut-shaped rings of very high energy electrons and protons. The belts lie close to Earth, sandwiched between satellites in geostationary orbit above and satellites in low Earth orbit below. Two identical RBSP spacecraft, each weighing 670 kg and carrying the most comprehensive instrumentation ever sent into the radiation belts, will follow similar paths taking them through the inner and outer belts in highly elliptical orbits ranging from 600-37,000 km in altitude. The probes will investigate changes in Earth’s space environment caused by the Sun that can disable satellites, create power grid failures, disrupt GPS service and pose serious risks to crew aboard the International Space Station. They will also enable researchers to understand fundamental radiation and particle acceleration processes throughout ...

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