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University of Iowa Wins $115 Million Grant from NASA to Develop Satellites for Studying Radiation Created by the Sun

The NASA grant will underwrite development of satellites expected to be launched within the next three years

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University of Iowa, Radiation, Sun
FILE - Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 14, 2010. VOA

A University of Iowa team has won a $115 million grant to develop satellites for studying a system of radiation created by the sun — “space weather.”

The NASA grant will underwrite development of satellites expected to be launched within the next three years with more satellites developed by Southwest Research Institute scientists.

University of Iowa, Radiation, Sun
A University of Iowa team has won a $115 million grant to develop satellites. Pixabay

The Iowa City Press-Enterprise reports that the satellites are designed to gather data on how the sun creates solar wind and how Earth responds to the solar wind. NASA scientists say goal is to understand what drives space weather so humans can mitigate any harmful effects.

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NASA official Nicky Fox says solar particles generated by the sun can interfere with undersea cables, power grids, radio communications and other electronic equipment. (VOA)

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NASA Selects Missions to Study Sun, its Effects on Space Weather

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system

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NASA, Missions, Sun
The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday. Pixabay

NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather.

The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study the Earth’s response.

“These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington.

NASA, Missions, Sun
NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather. Pixabay

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather.

Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impact on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals and utility grids on the ground.

The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects – including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis programme to the Moon.

One of the two missions that NASA has selected is the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH. This mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind.

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The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH.

TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling the Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down towards the Earth, NASA said. (IANS)