NASA has plenty of initiatives on its slate at the moment, however that has never stopped the U.S. space agency from seeking to the longer term. Our Sun, which is already a significant area of research with missions just like the Parker Solar Probe, is about to get much more attention because of the approval of two new missions to review numerous facets of our star and its relationship without a solar system.
The primary mission, referred to as the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere or just PUNCH for short will see four pint-sized satellites shot into orbit to review the solar wind. The solar wind, that is the stream of charged particles flowing out from the Sun can have a dramatic effect on spacecraft and satellites.
“The vacuum of space between the planets isn’t fully empty — it’s actually filled by a tenuous, hypersonic ‘Solar Wind’ that streams out from the corona and impacts spacecraft and planets — together with our own,” PUNCH Principal Investigator Dr. Craig DeForest stated in a press release. “PUNCH will observe the ‘no man’s land’ between the outer solar corona and the solar wind, giving us our first clear photos of the whole system connecting the Sun and Earth.”
The second mission that just acquired a thumbs-up from NASA known as the TRACERS (Tandom Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites).
Tandom Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites will feature a pair of satellites that may monitor the area close to the North Pole where Earth’s magnetic field bends inward. The area, referred to as the northern magnetic cusp, will assist scientists better perceive how Earth’s magnetic area interacts with that of the Sun.
Each mission will likely be launched from the same rocket, with TRACERS being featured as a secondary payload to the PUNCH mission satellites. The launch is presently planned for no later than August 2022.