The Van Allen Probes Launched OTD Six Years Ago

The twin Van Allen Probes launched 6 years ago today! 🛰🚀🛰 These spacecraft are solving scientific puzzles about the dynamic, donut-shaped radiation belts around Earth, which teem with energetic particles that can affect our technology.

UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab Designed Built and Integrated two sets of identical instrument suites, one for each spacecraft. An Instrument suite comprised two 6 meter AXB’s or Axial Staceer Booms and four 50 meter SPB’s or Spin Plane Wire Booms and an Electronics Package.

NASA’s ICON launch now targeted for Oct. 6

NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, for the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON. The spacecraft will launch aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 90 minutes starting at 4:00 a.m. EDT and ICON will be launching off the coast of Daytona at 39,000 ft. at a heading of 105.0 degrees. The June launch was postponed after off-nominal data was detected during the ferry flight of Pegasus. The root cause was traced to a faulty sensor, which has been replaced.

Article Courtesy of Anna Heiney, NASA ICON Mission

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe explained in detail

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will study the Sun to help us better understand the corona, the solar wind and other solar activity that might impact life on Earth. The mission was named for Eugene Parker, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. The Parker Solar Probe launched on a Delta IV Heavy rocket on 12 August 2018. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman/Goddard Space Flight Center

MAVEN has been collecting science data for two Mars years

Today (Aug. 21, 2018) marks two Mars years since the start of the MAVEN science mission. MAVEN Launched on November 18, 2013 and achieved Mars Orbit insertion on September 22, 2014.

It is a powerful testament to the entire MAVEN team that the spacecraft and instruments are working so well, that operations are going smoothly, and that the science continues to reveal unprecedented details about Mars’ evolution!

It has taken a lot of hard work from many individuals, partners, and institutions to get the mission to this point. Congratulations to the entire MAVEN team for reaching this mission milestone.

And here’s to the next two Mars years!

For the latest released results from MAVEN, please visit:

University of Colorado Boulder
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
NASA Goddard

Space probe to plunge into fiery corona of the sun

UC Berkeley physicist Stuart Bale discusses the FIELDS instruments aboard the Parker Solar Probe. Designed and built at the Space Sciences Laboratory, the instruments will measure electric and magnetic fields in the outer atmosphere of the sun to understand the corona and solar wind. (Applied Physics Laboratory video, Johns Hopkins University)

On August 11, NASA plans to launch Earth’s first spacecraft to venture inside the orbits of Venus and Mercury to touch the very edge of the sun’s fiery corona.

Outfitted with instruments designed and built at the University of California, Berkeley, the Parker Solar Probe will achieve a goal that space scientists have dreamed about for decades: to get close enough to the sun to learn how the turbulent surface we see from Earth dumps its energy into the corona and heats it to nearly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit, spawning the solar wind that continually bombards our planet.

“This is a piece of heliophysics science we all really wanted for a long time, since the 1950s,” said Stuart Bale, a UC Berkeley professor of physics, former director of the campus’s Space Sciences Laboratory and one of four principal investigators for the instruments aboard the mission. “For me personally, I’ve been working on the probe since it was approved in 2010, but I really spent a large part of my career getting ready for it.”

The complete article thanks to Berkeley News

Parker Solar Probe Launch

At 3:31 AM Eastern Time on August 12, after a one day delay, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft took off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for its “Mission to Touch the Sun”. On board two instrument suites, FIELDS and SWEAP, with many of its team members working out of the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab. Initial reports are that systems are nominal. Some early milestones achieved, Fairing Separation, Solar Array Deploy, Boost by the Third Stage and Separation from same. Over the next days and month, instruments from not only UC Berkeley but others will start to be turned on and checked out. Deployments will happen and Instruments checked out. By December we should be receiving our first data from the spacecraft. Congratulations to everyone that worked on this milestone project.

Above video (48 seconds) from Sergio Leite, friend of SSL. Below NASA-TV (7 minutes)

Tools of the Trade: How Parker Solar Probe Will Study the Sun

This spacecraft is full of cutting-edge technology, from its heat shield down to its guidance and control systems. It also carries four suites of advanced instruments designed to study the Sun in a multitude of ways.

1. Measuring particles

Two of Parker Solar Probe’s instrument suites are focused on measuring particles – electrons and ions – within the corona.

One of these particle-measuring instrument suites is SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons). SWEAP counts the most common particles in the solar wind – the Sun’s constant outflow of material – and measures their properties, like velocity, density and temperature. Gathering this information about solar wind particles will help scientists better understand why the solar wind reaches supersonic speeds and exactly which part of the Sun the particles come from.


Read about all the amazing instruments that will study the Sun.