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Twin Craft To Study Space Weather From Within Earth's Radiation Belts

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the what's-the-frequency-kenneth? dept.


Early Friday morning (just a few hours from now), if the Florida weather holds, two satellites are set to launch (here's the live-blogged play-by-play) from NASA's launch facility on Cape Canaveral on a mission to study the radiation belts that surround earth and (among other things) help make this planet friendly for life. The Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission features twin craft engineered by Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab which "will operate entirely within the radiation belts throughout their mission. When intense space weather occurs and the density and energy of particles within the belts increases, the probes will not have the luxury of going into a safe mode, as many other spacecraft must do during storms. The spacecraft engineers must therefore design probes and instruments that are 'hardened' to continue working even in the harshest conditions." Update: 08/24 14:53 GMT by T : Launch was a no-go, but there'll be another try early Saturday morning.

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From the article (3, Funny)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106123)

"Two Spacecraft, One Mission"

Oh, internet...

Re:From the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41106135)

Two enter. One leaves.

Did NASA suddenly... (0)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106147)

... get told they had to use all their budget or lose it next financial year?

#NasaSocial (2)

clam666 (1178429) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106231)

I'm at the NASA Press Site as part of the #NasaSocial event, and it's fantastic. After touring the VAB, launch control, the Atlas V, and the scientists involved, the excitement is infectious.

Some of the most advanced sensors ever are aboard are on to measure the radiation belts and soup of particles for the next couple of years, and the dual orbits of probes A and B should give a wealth of information on how to handle EM storms that affect Cell networks, GPS, and satellite communications. 43 minutes to launch.

Scrubbed 'til tomorrow ... (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#41109435)

Subject: Correction: Radiation Belt Storm Probes Launch, Rescheduled for August 25

This morning's planned launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) has been delayed to Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 4:07 a.m. The launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida can be viewed live at [] .

[local bits trimmed]

The RBSP mission is the second in NASA's Living With a Star program, becoming part of a fleet of spacecraft helping to predict space weather and its effects on orbiting spacecraft and on our technology here on Earth. RBSP has two identical probes to study the Van Allen Radiation Belts which are two concentric, donut-shaped rings of high-energy particles that surround Earth. Data from the probes will help us understand this major feature of the Earth's magnetosphere and the interactions between the sun and Earth.

(4:07am being Eastern, unlike the @!@#$% NASA mail system which sends everything out in central time)

For more information on the mission, visit []

why 2, not 4 ? (2)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106361)

Why not 4 space craft, to measure in 3D, like ESA's Cluster [] mission ?
NASA Budget cuts ?!
(The Cluster website is a bit out of date: the mission is currently extended to, IIRC, 2015.)

Re:why 2, not 4 ? (4, Informative)

clam666 (1178429) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106387)

Well the two cost about $435 million. I can assume there's a limit on money, plus adding another spacecraft (the two are stacked on the top), might be beyond a weight threshold that would require bigger and even more expensive launch platform.

The probes are in different elliptical orbits and one will lap the other as they fly in and out of the inner and outer belts, so they can see the particle effects on one vs. the other. There are several labs on it for measuring this, including probes that extend far away from the craft which will give three dimensional senses of what's happening.

Why 4, not 12 ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41111661)

To measure in 11-D, in like, you know, reality?

ironic captcha: deploy

Scrubbed (2)

Convector (897502) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106707)

And the launch has been scrubbed. They'll try again tomorrow.

Launch window of only 20 minutes (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41106771)

Yes, I read that

The mission for today is scrubbed and will try to launch tomorrow at the same time

What I'm surprised is that the launch window lasts only for 20 minutes

Why so short the time frame of the launch window?

Re:Launch window of only 20 minutes (1)

HybridST (894157) | more than 2 years ago | (#41107141)

"...What I'm surprised is that the launch window lasts only for 20 minutes

Why so short the time frame of the launch window?"

IANARS but i have always thought of the launch window as a kind-of measurement of excess-available delta-vee (ie-extra fuel) from launch. The problem with carrying extra fuel beyond mission-specifications is it *also* needs to be accelerated up to orbital velocities which reduces the contribution from the previously-spent fuel. It goes deeper than that but those are some of the prime factors in launch-windows.

Re:Launch window of only 20 minutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41118673)

We need to launch with apogee in the dawn sector since that's where we expect the interesting particle acceleration physics to be happening. That requires a particular launch time.

(Currently waiting for the go-ahead for the instrument aliveness tests.)

CPU (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41107087)

If anyone else is wondering what commputer hardware they are using that can "continue working even in the harshest conditions", according to the Launch Press Kit [] , it's the same kind of RAD-750 [] PowerPC compatible CPU that's in a number of other "recent" probes, including the Curiosity rover.

Avionics computer: RBSP’s on-board avionics computer is based on a BAE RAD-750 radiation hardened processor with
16 MB of RAM plus a 16 GB SDRAM data recorder. The spacecraft interfaces are controlled by a customized radiation-
tolerant RTAX2000 FPGA (field-programmable gate array) microprocessor.

Just in time for the Fantastic Four reboot movie (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41107425)

I wonder, if the weather is bad and the launch is delayed, with the chief scientist break into the base at night and launch the ship himself? Accompanied by his best friend (who grumbles about insufficient shielding), the scientist's girlfriend (who is keen to beat the commies), and her kid brother?

Those who have closely followed this mission ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41111131)

... will suspect that this is a mission whose primary purpose appears to be to rewrite the textbook theory on lightning. NASA sees circuitry connecting lightning to sprites to the van allen radiation belts, which is why the mission will at times also involve weather balloons. Like it or not (and since we're on Slashdot here, not), the mission will most likely lend additional support to the work of the Electric Universe theorists.

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