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  NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP)

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Author Topic:   NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP)
Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-19-2012 07:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA mission ready to brave Earth's radiation belts

NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission will send two spacecraft into the harsh environment of our planet's radiation belts.

The RBSP spacecraft are designed to fly and operate in the heart of the most hazardous regions of near-Earth space to collect crucial data. The data will help researchers develop an understanding of the Van Allen radiation belts, two rings of very high energy electrons and protons that can pose hazards to human and robotic explorers.

"At the end of this month we will turn our attention from planet Mars to planet Earth, both immersed in the atmosphere of our sun," said Barbara Giles, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division. "RBSP will further explore the connection of solar variability and its impacts on Earth's radiation belts."

RBSP will help scientists understand how the invisible radiation belts — named for James Van Allen, who discovered them — behave and react to changes in the sun, thereby contributing to Earth's space weather. Space weather is caused in great part by the sun's influence on Earth and near-Earth space, including solar events such as giant eruptions of solar material called coronal mass ejections.

"The dramatic dynamics of Earth's radiation belts caused by space weather are highly unpredictable," said Barry Mauk, RBSP project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. "One of the fundamental objectives of the RBSP mission is to use Earth's magnetosphere as a natural laboratory to understand generally how radiation is created and evolves throughout the universe. There are many mysteries that need to be resolved."

Space weather fluctuations can increase radiation exposure for pilots and passengers during polar aircraft flights. They also can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt the GPS (Global Positioning System), television and telecommunications signals. Understanding the science of space weather will lead to better space weather predictions, which in turn will allow us to better manage and protect our technological infrastructure in space and on the ground.

Above: The twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, stacked and in half of their fairing, taken on Monday, Aug. 6.

The spacecraft are atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket currently being prepared to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

"Everything is ready and prepared for RBSP to launch as scheduled," said Richard Fitzgerald, RBSP project manager at APL. "Both the twin spacecraft and the entire RBSP team are eager to begin their exploration of one of the most dangerous parts of space near our planet."

The mission will last two years. The spacecraft, carrying the best and most comprehensive instrumentation ever sent into the radiation belts, will fly through surging and swelling belts of energized particles that would damage ordinary spacecraft. By using a pair of probes flying in highly elliptical orbits, scientists will be able to study the radiation belts over space and time, learn how particles within the belts are produced and behave during space weather events, and what mechanisms drive the acceleration of the particles.

RBSP is part of NASA's Living With a Star Program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. APL built the RBSP spacecraft and will manage the mission for NASA.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-19-2012 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance update
RBSP Delay - Launch Set for Friday, Aug. 24

The launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes satellite is being delayed 24 hours.

An anomalous engine condition was identified during testing of another Atlas vehicle at the Factory in Decatur, Ala., and the delay will allow additional time for engineers to complete their assessments and verify that a similar condition does not exist on the RBSP launch vehicle engine.

The launch is rescheduled for Friday, Aug. 24 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The opening of the launch window is 4:07 a.m. EDT. The forecast for Aug. 24 shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-24-2012 03:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Radiation Belt Storm Probes launch delayed

The launch of an Atlas V carrying NASA's twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission was scrubbed Friday (Aug. 24) due to an issue with the mandatory range tracking beacon.

The Atlas V vehicle and RBSP are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The launch time is 4:07 a.m. EDT.

The forecast for Aug. 25 shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-25-2012 07:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Storm scrubs launch, hurricane results in rollback

The second attempt at launching an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) was scrubbed Saturday (Aug. 25) due to poor weather conditions including lightning, as well as cumulus and anvil clouds.

Further, with the unfavorable weather forecast as a result of Tropical Storm Isaac, the launch team has decided to roll the Atlas V back to its Vertical Integration Facility to ensure the rock and twin RBSP spacecraft are secured and protected from the approaching storm.

Pending approval from the range, the launch has been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30 at 4:05 a.m. EDT (0805 GMT).

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 08-30-2012 06:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Probes liftoff to explore Earth's radiation belts

NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), the first twin-spacecraft mission designed to explore our planet's radiation belts, launched into the predawn skies at 4:05 a.m. EDT (0805 GMT) Thursday (Aug. 30) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

"Scientists will learn in unprecedented detail how the radiation belts are populated with charged particles, what causes them to change and how these processes affect the upper reaches of the atmosphere around Earth," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. "The information collected from these probes will benefit the public by allowing us to better protect our satellites and understand how space weather affects communications and technology on Earth."

The two satellites, each weighing just less than 1,500 pounds, comprise the first dual-spacecraft mission specifically created to investigate this hazardous regions of near-Earth space, known as the radiation belts. These two belts, named for their discoverer, James Van Allen, encircle the planet and are filled with highly charged particles. The belts are affected by solar storms and coronal mass ejections and sometimes swell dramatically. When this occurs, they can pose dangers to communications, GPS satellites and human spaceflight.

"We have never before sent such comprehensive and high-quality instruments to study high radiation regions of space," said Barry Mauk, RBSP project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. "RBSP was crafted to help us learn more about, and ultimately predict, the response of the radiation belts to solar inputs."

The hardy RBSP satellites will spend the next 2 years looping through every part of both Van Allen belts. By having two spacecraft in different regions of the belts at the same time, scientists finally will be able to gather data from within the belts themselves, learning how they change over space and time. Designers fortified RBSP with special protective plating and rugged electronics to operate and survive within this punishing region of space that other spacecraft avoid. In addition, a space weather broadcast will transmit selected data from those instruments around the clock, giving researchers a check on current conditions near Earth.

"The excitement of seeing the spacecraft in orbit and beginning to perform science measurements is like no other thrill," said Richard Fitzgerald, RBSP project manager at APL. "The entire RBSP team, from across every organization, worked together to produce an amazing pair of spacecraft."


Credit: Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

RBSP was lifted into orbit aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-41, as the rocket's plume lit the dark skies over the Florida coast. The first RBSP spacecraft is scheduled to separate from the Atlas rocket's Centaur booster 1 hour, 18 minutes, 52 seconds after launch. The second RBSP spacecraft is set to follow 12 minutes, 14 seconds later. Mission controllers using APL's 60-foot satellite dish will establish radio contact with each probe immediately after separation.

During the next 60 days, operators will power up all flight systems and science instruments and deploy long antenna booms, two of which are more than 54 yards long. Data about the particles that swirl through the belts, and the fields and waves that transport them, will be gathered by five instrument suites designed and operated by teams at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark; the University of Iowa in Iowa City; University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; and the University of New Hampshire in Durham; and the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va. The data will be analyzed by scientists across the nation almost immediately.

RBSP is the second mission in NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. APL built the RBSP spacecraft and will manage the mission for NASA. NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy is responsible for launch management. United Launch Alliance provided the Atlas V launch service.


Credit: Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-09-2012 03:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA Renames Radiation Belt Mission To Honor Pioneering Scientist

NASA has renamed a recently launched mission that studies Earth's radiation belts as the Van Allen Probes in honor of the late James Van Allen. Van Allen was the head of the physics department at the University of Iowa who discovered the radiation belts encircling Earth in 1958.

The new name of the mission, previously called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), was announced Friday during a ceremony at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.

"James Van Allen was a true pioneer in astrophysics," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "His ground breaking research paved the way for current and future space exploration. These spacecraft now not only honor his iconic name but his mark on science."

During his career, Van Allen was the principal investigator for scientific investigations on 24 Earth satellites and planetary missions, beginning with the first successful American satellite, Explorer I, and continuing with Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11. He also helped develop the first plans for an International Geophysical Year was held in 1957. Van Allen, who worked at APL during and after World War II, also is credited with discovery of a new moon of Saturn in 1979, as well as radiation belts around that planet.

Launched Aug. 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Van Allen Probes comprise the first dual-spacecraft mission specifically created to investigate the radiation belts that surround Earth. These two belts encircle the planet and are filled with highly charged particles.

The belts are affected by solar storms and coronal mass ejections and sometimes swell dramatically. When this occurs, they can pose dangers to communications, GPS satellites and human spaceflight activities.

"After only two months in orbit, the Van Allen Probes have made significant contributions to our understanding of the radiation belts," says APL Director Ralph Semmel. "The science and data from these amazing twin spacecraft will allow for more effective and safe space technologies in the decades to come. APL is proud to have built and to operate this new resource for NASA and our nation, and we are proud to have the mission named for one of APL's original staff."

Operators have powered up all flight systems and science instruments on the probes. Data about the particles that swirl through the belts, and the fields and waves that transport them, are being gathered by five instrument groups designed and operated by teams at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark; University of Iowa in Iowa City; University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; University of New Hampshire in Durham; and the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va.

The probes will spend two years looping through every part of both Van Allen belts. By having two spacecraft in different regions of the belts at the same time, scientists finally will be able to gather data from within the belts themselves, learning how they change over space and time. In addition, a space weather broadcast will transmit selected data from those instruments around the clock, giving researchers a check on current conditions near Earth.

The Van Allen Probes comprise the second mission in NASA's Living With a Star program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The program is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

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