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NASA sending Radiation Belt Storm Probes to study the Van Allen Belt

Posted in Science on 13th Aug, 2012 05:01 PM by AlexMuller

Radiation is a common hazard of space exploration and space agencies usually tend to avoid it for obvious reasons. It can be dangerous for astronauts and  fatal to the microcircuitry of satellites. Why, then, is NASA sending its next unmanned mission right into the worst radiation hazard in the neighborhood? On August 23, two Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) will launch atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida to study the radioactive Van Allen Belts

The Van Allen Belts were detected in 1958 by the first successful American satellite, Explorer I, and are named after their discoverer James Van Allen. They are two belts of radiation caused by the interaction of the Sun and the Earth’s magnetic field. This results in charged protons and electrons getting caught in the field like iron filings around a magnet. These fields are of importance because, on the one hand, they protect the Earth against radiation coming from space, but on the other hand, they are no-go areas for astronauts and unmanned craft.


The RBSP mission is set to explore both belts. The two radiation-shielded probes will fly through the radioactive areas of highly-charged particles to learn more about how they are changed by events on the Sun, such as solar flares and coronal discharges. This is motivated by more than mere curiosity. Space weather affects satellites, communications, terrestrial power grids and the exposure of air passengers to radiation. A severe weather event, such as a massive flare pointed straight at Earth, could even knock out electricity on half the planet and destroy most computers.


"The dramatic dynamics of Earth's radiation belts caused by space weather are highly unpredictable," said Barry Mauk, RBSP project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. "One of the fundamental objectives of the RBSP mission is to use Earth's magnetosphere as a natural laboratory to understand generally how radiation is created and evolves throughout the universe. There are many mysteries that need to be resolved."


A part of NASA's Living With a Star Program, the RBSP mission is scheduled to last two years and will be controlled from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Read original article » Back to category


Author: Guest
Posted: 2012-08-13
This is so contradictory. If there are bands of radiation that are out there (which are true) then how can we support the fact that nasa actually sent astronauts to the moon. I know that's controversial in it'self but the more they explore space and give information the more I get truly skeptical about the space program. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2012-09-07
You keep it up now, undresatnd? Really good to know. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-10-23
1NByG9 A round of applause for your article post.Thanks Again. Really Cool. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-22
Dec20 I was basically wodrneing if you ever considered switching the layout of your site? Its well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could include a a bit more in the way of written content so people could connect with it better. You have got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you can space it out better? Reply


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