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NASA Earth

NASA Launches Twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes 30

Posted by timothy
from the realized-vision dept.
eldavojohn writes "A press release announced the launch of NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission at 4:05 a.m. EDT Thursday morning. The probes are listed as healthy and ready to begin their 60-day commissioning period before beginning their prime mission to study Earth's electric atmosphere. Space.com has images of the launch. The spacecraft will study the Van Allen Radiation Belts and allow us better insight on the Sun's influence on the Earth as well as giving us a more accurate picture of Earth's magnetosphere. The spacecraft's sensitive parts are protected by 0.33 inches (8.5 millimeters) of aluminum and they will follow each other across a highly elliptical orbit almost exactly on the Earth's equatorial plane coming as close as 375 miles (603 km) and reaching as far as 20,000 miles (32187 km) from the surface of Earth to dynamically explore the radiation belts."
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NASA Launches Twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes

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  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:13AM (#41177967) Homepage Journal

    To keep the Earth's radiation pants from falling down.

  • Awesome Launch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clam666 (1178429) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:27AM (#41178097)

    I had the good luck to watch the launch from the roof of the VAB, and the launch was great. Although the moisture ladden air made long exposure photography not come out as crisp, it did make for a much better light show as the spaceship blasted off.

    Many people are bummed out from the lack of "manned" space travel with NASA, but on the floor of the VAB, across from the shuttle Endeavour, were the nose cone and Launch Escape System - LES, for the Orion program.

    Good luck to the RBSP and hope the data it sends back will give us more knowledge going forward to have humans travel safely through the storm belts.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:28AM (#41178105)
    Suspected by van Allen, but took a satellite to prove it.
    We still dont fully understand how space weather works, nor how it interacts with the climate and human technology.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @11:01AM (#41178491)

    Or at least quote the metric units first. If NASA is so se serious about going fully metric then they should go fully and only metric. Perhaps that would even help to educate the masses somewhat by forcing people to relate to it.

    • It's a press release - it uses units the general public is most familiar and comfortable with. For everyday activities, the difference between metric and imperial is about as significant as a single drop of water in the Pacific Ocean.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Or at least quote the metric units first.

      Gees, guys, conversion is really simple. A gallon is just under four litres. A Yard is a short meter. A kilometer is just over half a mile. It's not like you need exact measurements when you're not working on a device yourself.

  • I'm just wondering about length of time needed to build spacecraft. Is there a possibility of trying to develop full-on robot automated manufacturing of spacecraft to try and reduce cost and increase speed of manufacture? Or is it just that the current combination of no money up front, pushing the envelope, and needing human brainpower for testing and imagining failure modes? Are there any parts of spacecraft these days that are assembled robotically or is it 100% bespoke? Which is still cool but not space

    • Robots building robots is the first sign of the coming apocalypse

      • Robots are already responsible for a good part of the work on building other robots (they are responsible for a good part of the work on building anything). And they are gaining terrain fast.

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:00PM (#41179205)

      I'm just wondering about length of time needed to build spacecraft. Is there a possibility of trying to develop full-on robot automated manufacturing of spacecraft to try and reduce cost and increase speed of manufacture? Or is it just that the current combination of no money up front, pushing the envelope, and needing human brainpower for testing and imagining failure modes? Are there any parts of spacecraft these days that are assembled robotically or is it 100% bespoke? Which is still cool but not space operaish yet. You see automated manufacturing attached to automated mining and supply lines means we can set up a remote site on the Moon or Mars.

      Excepting very few use cases, most spacecraft are bespoke because each mission is different. There are very few times when a spacecraft is constructed en masse - basically the same spacecraft churned out in multiple copies, and even then the number tends to be extremely limited (usually below 10), so setting up assembly lines doesn't generally justify the overhead.

      Now, there are efforts to componentize spacecraft so building one is basically like snapping together Lego. Including having flight software automatically reconfigure itself to handle those blocks like modern OSes do when you plug in USB devices.

      The main problem is that it's extremely expensive to launch spacecraft - easily $1B per launch. Neverminding the large fraction that don't make it at all. As such, equipment sent up there has to put up with some of the worst scenarios in the world - little projectiles whizzing along and handling all the damage it causes, limited weight (too heavy and it costs way more $$$), the fact that there's no way to practically repair it (very few get the Hubble treatment), and that it has to last many years (because you don't want to launch its replacement and spend another billion soon aferwards)

      When you've got billion(s) on the line, spending a few years ensuring that failures are minimized and tolerated is just part of the game. Cube sats and such only have to last a few weeks - which is a much easier thing to do than making one last at least a decade or more.

  • Interesting PR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @11:40AM (#41178995)

    The word "satellite" is eliminated except as something the mission can help out with. I'm used to "probe" meaning a platform shot beyond our orbit.

    Are they just trying to ride the cool-factor of the recent Mars probe programs, or do these orbiters actually do something sufficiently different from satellites to earn the name-shift?

    I'm fine with calling them "probes" since they're dipped in what's being studied. And I guess I'm okay with terms being fluffed for short-attention public and congress. But it first made me dig to find out how these were doing VAB study without being satellites, and then left me wondering if they're still not quite satellites in a way that's not explained. Is this terminology only PR? (If so, has it started with these?)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      these are both satellites and probes.

      A probe is a remote sensor (you can put a thermometer on a stick and call it a "probe"), whereas satellites are things that are in obit (the Moon, is a satellite.)

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:08PM (#41179963)

    ...that they don't find out that the Van Allen belt is on fire! [imdb.com]

  • The probes ought to be named Heaviside and Van Allen, for the predictor and discoverer of these belts.

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