Aerospace Instruments Launch on NASA Mission

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aug. 30, 2012) — Aerospace-developed instruments will play a central role in a two-year NASA mission to study the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth.

Called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission, the space segment consists of two identical satellites that launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 30. Each spacecraft carries the same complement of instruments, which includes five built by The Aerospace Corporation.

RBSP is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that affect life and society.

The instruments on the two RBSP spacecraft will provide the measurements needed to characterize and quantify the processes that produce relativistic ions and electrons. They will measure the properties of charged particles that comprise the Earth’s radiation belts and the plasma waves that interact with them, the large-scale electric fields that transport them, and the magnetic field that guides them. Understanding the radiation belt environment and its variability has extremely important practical applications in the areas of spacecraft operations, spacecraft and spacecraft system design, mission planning, and astronaut safety.

The Aerospace instruments aboard the RBSP spacecraft are of two designs. The first is the Magnetic Electron Ion Spectrometer (MagEIS). Measurements from MagEIS are central to the RBSP science objective of understanding the sources and losses of the outer Van Allen radiation belt electrons. These electrons are responsible for the hazard of spacecraft charging and dominate the total ionizing dose in many orbits. The MagEIS instruments use a permanent magnetic field and arrays of silicon solid-state detectors to measure magnetospheric electron energy, intensity, and arrival direction. There are four MagEIS instruments on each satellite.

The second instrument is a Relativistic Proton Spectrometer (RPS). RPS extends the scientific capability of the RBSP mission to include the highest-energy trapped protons in the inner Van Allen radiation belt. The inner belt protons can cause single-event effects in microelectronics and dominate the total ionizing dose under thick shielding. There is one RPS on each satellite.

The Aerospace Corporation, based in El Segundo, Calif., is a California nonprofit corporation that provides objective technical analyses and assessments for critical national security space programs and selected civil and commercial space programs in the national interest. Aerospace has been assuring space mission success for more than 50 years.

For more information, contact: [email protected]