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NASA, NRL to Investigate Origins of Solar Energetic Particles

Space radiation

NASA, NRL to Investigate Origins of Solar Energetic Particles

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and NASA are working together to investigate the origins of solar energetic particles, elements that could affect Navy satellites and harm personnel during future crewed missions.

Researchers from both organizations will use the Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder, an instrument designed to study how SEPs are generated close to the sun. The tool will also provide space weather forecasting when SEPs are generated. UVSC Pathfinder uses five separate apertures to collect signals from the Sun’s corona, where SEPs are first formed. The hardware is designed to block direct light from the sun so fainter regions of the corona will not be washed out.

The coronagraph will be loaded onto Space Test Program Satellite-6, the primary spacecraft of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program 3 mission. The payload will be launched on Dec. 4 through a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket, DVIDS reported Tuesday.

Leonard Strachan Jr., an astrophysicist at NRL, said SEPs are the Sun’s most dangerous form of radiation and could cause serious damage to spacecraft and astronauts. Strachan stated that NRL and NASA will determine if UVSC Pathfinder will be effective in collecting data before making a miniature version that will be deployed in multiple locations in the Solar System.

The coronagraph will operate in a near-Earth geosynchronous orbit. According to Strachan, putting the hardware in a GEO orbit will allow it to send data back to Earth quicker. Information will be sent to a ground station at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the NRL astrophysicist said.

The SEP discovery mission is one of the steps that the U.S. government is taking ahead of the Artemis program.

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Category: Space

Tags: DVIDS Leonard Strachan Leonard Strachan Jr. NASA solar energetic particles space space radiation Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder United Launch Alliance US Naval Research Laboratory