Published On: Thu, Aug 30th, 2012

NASA launches Atlas V to send two probes to study radiation belt around earth

An unmanned Atlas 5 rocket lifted off Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to put a pair of heavily shielded NASA science satellites into position to study Earth’s radiation belts.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch, which has delivered NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes into space. NASA photo

The 190-foot tall rocket blasted off at 4:05 a.m. EDT, soaring out over the Atlantic Ocean toward an orbit as far as 19,042 miles above the planet’s surface.

Riding atop the rocket were the identical twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes, which are expected to spend two years surveying the Van Allen radiation belts.

Named after University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen, the two doughnut-shaped belts of trapped particles were discovered in 1958 by Explorer 1, the first U.S. science satellite. They are held in place by Earth’s magnetic field, which traps the electrically charged particles from the sun and deep space.

NASA’s official statement of purpose for the RBSP: The Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) is being designed to help us understand the sun’s influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the Earth’s radiation belts on various scales of space and time.

The two RBSP spacecraft will have nearly identical eccentric orbits. The orbits cover the entire radiation belt region and the two spacecraft lap each other several times over the course of the mission. The RBSP in situ measurements discriminate between spatial and temporal effects, and compare the effects of various proposed mechanisms for charged particle acceleration and loss.

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- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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