Imprimir Republish

Magnetospheric Multiscale

Journey to the magnetosphere

The four satellites prior to lift-off: working together

Kim Shiflett / NASAThe four satellites prior to lift-off: working togetherKim Shiflett / NASA

On March 12, 2015, the US space agency NASA launched its Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS). Hours after lifting off at Cape Canaveral, in Florida, the four identical satellites that make up the mission separated from the Atlas V rocket and entered Earth’s orbit, where they will work together, flying in pyramid-like formation and taking electrical and magnetic measurements. The mission will study what happens in space when magnetic field lines release energy as they violently disconnect and reconnect. These reconnections disturb the Earth’s protective shield—called the magnetosphere—and during solar flares allow the high-energy particles that stream from the sun to interfere with and even shut down modern technological systems like communications networks, GPS navigation, and power grids. “[MMS] is going to actually fly in Earth’s magnetosphere,” explained Jeff Newmark, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, according to the site “We’re using this environment around the Earth as a natural laboratory. Rather than building one on Earth, we’re going to where magnetic reconnection actually occurs in space so we can understand it.”