NASA to launch new mission to study space weather from ISS
NASA has selected a new mission that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth. The mission will investigate how waves in the lower atmosphere, caused by variations in the densities of different packets of air, impact the upper atmosphere.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.
The mission titled as the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) is expected to cost around USD 42 million and it will be launched in August 2022, attached to the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station.
• The experiment will focus on colourful bands of light in Earth's atmosphere, called airglow, to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in the upper atmosphere.
• It was earlier thought that only the Sun's constant outflow of ultraviolet light and particles, the solar wind, could affect the region.
• However, researchers now have learned that solar variability is not enough to drive the changes observed and Earth's weather also must be having an effect.
• Hence to understand this deeper, the mission will investigate how waves in the lower atmosphere, caused by variations in the densities of different packets of air, impact the upper atmosphere.
Studying space weather is significance as it can have profound impacts, affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and at its most severe, overwhelming power grids.
The new experiment will, for the first time, obtain global observations of an important driver of space weather in a dynamic region of Earth's upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.
NASA has selected another experiment, called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) for a seven-month extended formulation study. The experiment is expected to be undertaken at an estimated cost of $100,000.
The experience would involve an array of six CubeSats operating like one large radio telescope.
The proposed mission would investigate how giant space weather storms from the Sun, called solar particle storms, are accelerated and released into planetary space.
The Atmospheric Waves Experiment is a Mission of Opportunity under NASA's Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency's larger missions.
Since the 1958 launch of NASA's first satellite Explorer 1, which discovered Earth's radiation belts, the Explorers Program has supported over 90 missions. The Uhuru and Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) missions resulted in the conferral of Nobel prizes to their investigators.
The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the universe.
The AWE was selected for development based on its potential science value and the feasibility of its development plans.