Saturday, February 17, 2007

THEMIS mission successfully launched

An exciting and innovative NASA science mission based on microsatellites is now in orbit. THEMIS uses five identical spacecraft, which will be placed in highly elliptical orbits to provide data simultaneously from multiple points on the Earth's aurora and magnetic field.

As NASA puts it,
"THEMIS is a mission to investigate what causes auroras in the Earth's atmosphere to dramatically change from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of color. Discovering what causes auroras to change will provide scientists with important details on how the planet's magnetosphere works and the important Sun-Earth connection."

A really cool video animation is available here:

The five microsatellites (dry mass 77kg) are incredibly sophisticated, packed with instruments and with booms that telescope out as far as 20 meters. The prime contractor, Swales, explains the spacecraft in detail at this site:

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