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NASA Launching Two Missions for Solar Impact Research

Jeff Brody

NASA is preparing for two missions to support research into heliophysics or how the sun impacts planetary phenomena. The agency said Friday that the first initiative, known as the “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere” mission, will use real-time imaging technology and small satellites to study the generation of solar winds by the sun’s corona or outer atmosphere.

The second mission, known as “Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites”, will receive up to $115 million in funding and serve as a secondary payload for the PUNCH mission. NASA intends TRACERS to be a rideshare mission focusing on the assessment of the Earth's magnetic fields at its northern cusp encircling the polar region. The mission will help researchers analyze the magnetic fields’ interaction with the sun to develop ways of improving the protection of astronauts and space instruments.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, noted that the small platforms complement NASA’s other heliophysics spacecraft and enable the agency to “get more research for the price of a single launch.”

NASA plans to launch both missions by August 2022.

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