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NRL, NASA to Investigate Solar Energetic Particles Using New GEO Coronagraph

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The Naval Research Laboratory and NASA are preparing a joint experiment that will study solar energetic particles posing harm to U.S. Navy satellites and future manned space exploration missions.

The Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder will carry a novel solar telescope to collect signals at the Sun’s corona region where SEPs originate from a near geosynchronous-Earth orbit , NRL said Tuesday.

UVSC Pathfinder will help researchers understand how the Sun generate SEPs and improve space weather forecasting to protect U.S. assets in space.

“These powerful particles can wreak havoc with spacecraft and expose astronauts to dangerous radiation,” explained Leonard Strachan, Jr., the mission’s principal investigator at NRL.

The official added that the instrument will validate the capability a new coronagraph design with five apertures that carry their own occulter to collect improved signals from the Sun.

“If we can prove it works, then we can think about how to miniaturize the instrument and possibly deploy them to multiple locations in the Solar System,” shared Strachan.

USVC Pathfinder will launch on Dec. 4 as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-3 onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Florida.