NASA announced the exact launch date of the TRACERS mission, after the last test was successful
Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 05 April 2022, at 12:25 pm Los Angeles time
After so long, we have an official launch date from NASA for the TRACERS mission (Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites).
NASA announced yesterday that TRACERS has successfully passed over a critical review of the mission on March 31, 2022. Thus, NASA decided that the launch of the mission should take place on July 27, 2024.
"We're excited to pass this major milestone and get one step closer to launch," said Prof. Craig Kletzing, space physicist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and the mission's principal investigator.
"The review, Key Decision Point C, evaluated the mission's preliminary design and program plan to achieve launch by its target launch readiness. With the successful review, TRACERS now moves into Phase C, which includes the final design of the mission and building of the two satellites." said NASA.
"TRACERS will be an important addition to our heliophysics fleet," said Washito Sasamoto, program executive for the mission at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "The mission is targeting long-standing questions critical to understanding the Sun-Earth system."
The TRACERS mission consists of a pair of two satellites that will study in detail the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere.
The magnetosphere is formed when particles with electric charge interact with the magnetic field of our planet.
However, something strange is happening in these interactions. Not only can particles interact with the magnetic field, but worse, two magnetic fields meet. Then a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection is formed which is manifested by explosive energy transfer.
NASA also uses the term magnetopause where the solar wind first meets the Earth's magnetosphere.
If a reconnection event happens, well, the particles have an "open path," which is what is not good in our atmosphere. It's nice because these particles form auroras, but they can cause great damage.
Telecommunications can be disrupted, astronauts can no longer connect with those on Earth and many services on the phone, tablets, computer, etc. (eg GPS) may be severely affected.
The TRACERS mission will, as you have probably guessed, be the main target of studying magnetic reconnection at Earth's magnetopause.
NASA said it would fly through the polar cusp, a known spot where the magnetic field descends far to the ground.
"Magnetic reconnection can happen in lots of places in the magnetopause, but it's hard to survey such a giant search space," Kletzing said. "The cusp is one place where can study the signatures of reconnection that happen all over."
TRACERS is led by Craig Kletzing at the University of Iowa and managed by the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. NASA's Heliophysics Explorers Program Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides mission oversight to the project for the agency's Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to NASA.