News Karnataka
Monday, March 04 2024
Open Space

Cereal Box-Size Satellites to Explore Solar Activity

Satellites
Photo Credit : IANS

Washington : NASA scientists have finished building six identical spacecraft the size of cereal boxes with the goal of studying solar radio bursts, and they are currently awaiting final testing.

The US Space Force (USSF)’s Space Systems Command (SSC) is funding the launch of the six tiny satellites (SmallSats) as part of the agency’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE), which will be launched as a rideshare atop a United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket.

Once in orbit, these SmallSats will cooperate to function as a single, enormous radio antenna.

The mission will study the physics of explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere in order to gain insights that could someday help protect astronauts and space hardware from showers of accelerated particles.

SunRISE may someday help track solar radio bursts and pinpoint their location to warn humans when the energetic particles from coronal mass ejections and solar flares are likely to hit Earth.

“Some missions put multiple scientific instruments on a single spacecraft, whereas we use multiple small satellites to act as a single instrument,” said Andrew Romero-Wolf, the deputy project scientist for SunRISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California, in a statement.

The six satellites, despite their modest size, have a challenging task ahead of them as they investigate solar radio bursts, or the production of radio waves in the Sun’s outer atmosphere.

These explosions are caused by electrons that are propelled in the Sun’s atmosphere during solar flares and coronal mass ejections, two extremely powerful phenomena. Particles accelerated by these occurrences have the potential to harm spacecraft equipment, particularly those on communications satellites orbiting the Earth, and endanger astronaut health.

To look out for solar radio events, the SmallSats will fly about 10 kilometres apart and each deploy four radio antennas that extend 2.5 metres. Mission scientists and engineers will track where the satellites are relative to one another and measure with precise timing when each one observes a particular event. Then they will combine the information collected by the satellites into a single data stream from which images of the Sun will be produced for scientists to study — a technique called interferometry.

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