Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites

The overarching mission goal of the TRACERS mission is: Connecting the magnetospheric cusp to the magnetopause – discovering how spatial or temporal variations in magnetic reconnection drive cusp dynamics.

To address this goal, the TRACERS mission has three major scientific objectives:

  • Determine whether magnetopause reconnection is primarily spatially or temporally variable for a range of solar wind conditions.
  • For temporally varying reconnection, determine how the reconnection rate evolves.
  • Determine to what extent dynamic structures in the cusp are associated with temporal versus spatial reconnection.

To accomplish this scientific research, TRACERS consists of two identically instrument spacecraft making observations in the cusp in 500 km sun-synchronous circular orbits with the spacecraft separated by 10 s to 120 s.  Statistical analysis of the orbit shows that TRACERS will have more than 3250 cups encounters in the one year mission lifetime.  Well-proven instruments and a good understanding of orbital characteristics allow for simple mission operations coupled with proven data analysis techniques backed by high-fidelity simulations.

This false-color image of Earth's magnetosphere illustrates the depression in magnetic field strength in the northern and southern cusps.