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NASA launches RBSP twin satellites to EARTH's radiation belts

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08/30/2012 10:08 AM
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NASA launches RBSP twin satellites to EARTH's radiation belts
Seems like NASA paying more attention to the SUN these days!!

NASA launched the science probes before dawn, sending them skyward aboard an unmanned rocket. Within 1½ hours, the two satellites were flying free. "We're all thrilled, just as excited as can be," said launch director Tim Dunn. It's the first time two spacecraft will orbit in tandem amid the punishing radiation belts of Earth, brimming with highly charged particles capable of wrecking satellites. These new satellites—shielded with thick aluminum—are designed to withstand an onslaught of cosmic rays for the next two years.

Normally, the belts remain well above the International Space Station and low-flying satellites. But the belts can expand during solar storms right into the paths of orbiting spacecraft. If severe enough, the storms can cripple satellites and endanger astronauts, and disrupt power and communications on the ground.

"The Earth responds to what's coming from the sun, so we say, 'If the sun sneezes, the Earth catches a cold,' " said Nicola Fox, deputy project scientist for Johns Hopkins. The symptoms vary widely and need to be better understood, she said.

Read more at: [link to phys.org]
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