The morning of 30 August 2012 saw an Atlas 5 rocket launch of the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes, the second spacecraft mission in NASA’s Living with a Star program. The probes settled into an elliptic orbit that cut through Earth’s radiation belts, home to highly variable populations of energetic particles dangerous to astronauts’ health and spacecraft operation. Renamed the Van Allen Probes soon after launch, the spacecraft are equipped with instruments designed to determine how these high-energy particles form, respond to solar variations, and evolve in space environments.
During their prime mission, the Van Allen Probes verified and quantified previously suggested energization processes, discovered new energization mechanisms, revealed the critical importance of dynamic plasma injections into the innermost magnetosphere, and used uniquely capable instruments to unveil inner radiation belt features that were all but invisible to previous sensors.
Now, through an extended mission that began 1 November 2015, the Van Allen Probes will advance understanding of the dynamics of near-Earth particle radiation. The overarching objective of this extended mission is to quantify the mechanisms governing Earth’s radiation belt and ring currentenvironment as the solar cycle transitions from solar maximum through the declining phase.
The complete article thanks to EOS magazine, here: