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."