Two spacecraft were launched directly into belts of radiation where most fear to fly.
NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) satellites were launched into space just before dawn on August 30, 2012. The mission was designed like none before it to penetrate and observe the Van Allen Belts, two dynamic swaths of radiation surrounding Earth that can wreak havoc on spacecraft electronics and potentially harm astronauts. Most satellites are put into orbit above or below the belts for protection. But, with thick aluminum shielding sensitive instruments, the twin RBSP satellites were built to go into the heart of the harshest radiation anywhere around Earth. As the belts vary unpredictably in size and intensity, the two identical spacecraft will provide multiple vantage points of these changes and ultimately lead to a better understanding of how energy from the sun affects the fluctuations. The visualization shows how the spacecraft will fly in an unusual, highly elliptical orbit to collect data throughout the vastness of the Van Allen Belts.
Please give credit for this item to: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Launch photos courtesy of NASA HQ Artist's rendition of Centaur stage courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
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