NASA To Launch Sun-Bound Six Pack of Satellites

Six satellites that make up NASA’s SunRISE mission
The six satellites that make up NASA’s SunRISE mission are each only about the size of a cereal box, flanked by small solar panels. | Image by Allison Bills/Space Dynamics Laboratory

NASA scientists are preparing to launch six “cereal box-size” satellites that will be sent on an exploratory mission around the sun to study radio wave generation in the solar boy’s upper atmosphere.

The agency announced on November 30 that its Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) mission is awaiting its final round of tests before the satellites are sent on their journey to the sun. This pack of six satellites will essentially act as a single radio antenna transmitting data from interactions and explosions on the sun’s surface.

“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, deputy project scientist for the SunRISE project, according to NASA.

These satellites, dubbed “SmallSats,” will fly six miles apart and deploy four radio antennas that extend 10 feet. Researchers on Earth will then collect data each time a satellite observes a radio-sensitive event. They hope to use data gathered from these satellites to protect hardware and astronauts from charged particles emitting from the sun.

“This is a big moment for everyone who has worked on SunRISE,” said Jim Lux, project manager for the SunRISE project, according to NASA. “Challenges are expected when you’re doing something for the first time, and especially when the space vehicles are small and compact. But we have a small team that works well together, across multiple institutions and companies. I’m looking forward to the day when we receive the first images of the Sun in these radio wavelengths.”

The satellites will wait in storage and undergo their final test before being launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket at an undetermined date.

Scientists have been preparing a number of new spacecraft that will be sent on exploratory missions across the solar system. NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization recently finished thermal vacuum testing of their NISAR satellite, which is slated to launch next year, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

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