We’re About To Probe Earth’s Radiation Belt Storms.
What’s an RBSP? Well, it’s certainly not asking for whether or not you’re going to attend your best friend’s party – but it is going to be a party in space! New technology is about to answer some questions.
The Radiation Belt Storm probes are fueled up and ready to launch on August 23 and Cape Canaveral is the place to be. Launch commentary coverage, as well as prelaunch media briefings, will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
The twin RBSP craft will study two extreme and dynamic regions of space known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts. This donut-shaped area around the Earth was discovered by James Van Allen and the two concentric rings are bristling with high-energy particles which sometimes invade Earth’s atmosphere and also escape into space. The radiation belts contract and expand over time as part of a much larger space weather system driven by energy and material which erupt from the Sun’s surface and cascade throughout the entire solar system.
“While earlier missions have sent back some information about the radiation belts, RBSP is the first to use two spacecraft in tandem.” says NASA. “As they speed through the belts at some 2000 mph, the spacecraft will naturally pass through changing conditions.
But a single moving spacecraft cannot discern whether any changes it observes are due to traveling disturbances, or if the spacecraft simply flew through two static, but differing, regions. Two spacecraft with identical instruments, however, can distinguish between these possibilities.”
On Thursday, Aug. 23, NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 1:30 a.m. EST and conclude after the second of the two RBSP spacecraft has separated from the Atlas V, which occurs 91 minutes and six seconds after launch. Live launch coverage will be carried on all NASA Television channels.
A prelaunch webcast for the RBSP mission will be streamed on NASA’s website at noon, Wednesday, Aug. 22. Live countdown coverage through NASA’s Launch Blog begins at 1:30 a.m. US EST, Thursday, Aug. 23. Coverage features live updates as countdown milestones occur, as well as streaming video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff.