Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

2001 Space Mission: Into The Heart Of The Van Allen Belts

Date:
September 17, 1998
Source:
University Of Minnesota
Summary:
For nearly three decades, scientists have known that Earth is surrounded by the massive Van Allen radiation belts, which wreak havoc on spacecraft and satellite communications but also play a role in generating spectacularly beautiful auroras. Now, as one of only two universities selected by NASA's new University-class Explorers (UNEX) program, the University of Minnesota will send a spacecraft into the heart of the Van Allen belts to study the forces at work there.

For nearly three decades, scientists have known that Earth is surrounded by the massive Van Allen radiation belts, which wreak havoc on spacecraft and satellite communications but also play a role in generating spectacularly beautiful auroras. Now, as one of only two universities selected by NASA's new University-class Explorers (UNEX) program, the University of Minnesota will send a spacecraft into the heart of the Van Allen belts to study the forces at work there. The researchers hope that by better understanding these forces--which also operate in virtually every other corner of the universe--they will gain a deeper understanding of how electrical and magnetic forces shape the universe and come closer to predicting hazards to communications--and astronauts. Launch is planned for mid-2001 aboard an Air Force Titan IV rocket.

The university project, along with one from the University of California, Berkeley, was chosen for UNEX from 44 proposals nationwide. UNEX is designed to provide frequent flight opportunities for specific and relatively inexpensive science missions involving students. With only three years to launch, the project will allow many students to be involved in the projects from start to finish.

"This is part of NASA's effort to do more science for less money," said project principal investigator John Wygant, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Minnesota. "It presents us with a tremendous challenge to put this program together on time and on budget."

"We've been building space experiments here since the 1950s," said project manager Keith Goetz, a physicist at the university. "But this is the first time we've been responsible for all aspects of a satellite project from beginning to end."

The five-year, $13 million project, named the Inner Magnetosphere Explorer (IMEX), will record the forces that spin, accelerate and otherwise control the fates of electrically charged particles that stream from the sun and head earthward at speeds nearing a million miles per hour. Known as the solar wind, these particles--mostly protons and electrons--run into rough sledding when they hit Earth's magnetic field. The field sends the particles spiraling along its magnetic force lines and boosts their energy by hundreds of thousands-fold. Eventually some particles are guided into the Van Allen belts, which circle Earth at altitudes between about 200 and 20,000 miles. Those altitudes define the inner- and outermost points of IMEX's highly elliptical orbit.

Because very fast, energetic particles in the Van Allen belts have caused spacecraft to fail, Wygant and Goetz expect IMEX to suffer some damage. However, the 350-pound spacecraft provides more shielding than most, so the team expects to get two years of data from it. Its launch date will place it in the Van Allen belts during the height of the 11-year solar cycle, a time when activity is expected to be strongest.

The University of Minnesota is heading a team of investigators from several institutions working on different parts of the project. Minnesota scientists are building IMEX's central instrument, which will measure electrical fields, and also a computer to control all the scientific instruments aboard. The University of Colorado is building the spacecraft. The University of California, Berkeley is providing an instrument, as are NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Aerospace Corp. UNEX is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the Office of Space Science in Washington.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Minnesota. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Minnesota. "2001 Space Mission: Into The Heart Of The Van Allen Belts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980917081203.htm>.
University Of Minnesota. (1998, September 17). 2001 Space Mission: Into The Heart Of The Van Allen Belts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980917081203.htm
University Of Minnesota. "2001 Space Mission: Into The Heart Of The Van Allen Belts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980917081203.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

AFP (Oct. 19, 2014) Tens of thousands of runners battled thick smog at the Beijing Marathon on Sunday, with some donning masks as the levels of PM2.5 small pollutant particles soared to 16 times the maximum recommended level. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins