In the wee hours of the morning (4:08 a.m. Eastern on August 24), the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes will be launched on an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral. These satellites will hopefully improve our knowledge (and our modeling) of the Van Allen Radiation Belts, especially as the belts react to solar activity. We are approaching the maximum of activity in a solar cycle after an extremely quiet minimum. I can’t imagine all the radiation shielding that must be around all the electronics on those probes. Even in low Earth orbit where there’s only a fraction of the radiation, we still have to use shielding and rad-hard avionics to prevent latch-ups and upsets.
The RBSP will be orbiting at 435 miles by 23,000 miles, just shy of geosynchronous. The mission is planned for two years and will be coordinated with the other spacecraft in the Living with a Star program, especially the Balloon Array for RBSP Relativistic Electron Losses (BARREL) and the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
I’ll update with the launch video when it’s available. Here’s hoping for clear weather and a good launch!
UPDATE: Launch delayed 24 hours because of a problem with the range tracking beacon at the Cape. It’s a safety issue, not a problem with the vehicle.
Aug. 25 update Weather delay this time. Next launch attempt will be August 30.