NASA has said its Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, or MMS — that is giving scientists new insight into Earths magnetosphere — now holds the Guinness World Record for highest altitude fix of a GPS signal. Operating in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth, the MMS satellites set the record at 70,006.4 kilometres above the surface, the US space agency said. The four MMS spacecraft incorporate GPS measurements into their precise tracking systems, which require extremely sensitive position and orbit calculations to guide tight flying formations.
Earlier this year, MMS achieved the closest flying separation of a multi-spacecraft formation with only about seven kilometres between the four satellites. When MMS is not breaking records, it conducts ground-breaking science, NASA said. Still in the first year of its prime mission, MMS is giving scientists new insight into Earth’s magnetosphere.
The mission uses four individual satellites that fly in a pyramid formation to map magnetic reconnection – a process that occurs as the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields interact. Precise GPS tracking allows the satellites to maintain a tight formation and obtain high resolution three-dimensional observations.
Understanding the causes of magnetic reconnection is important for understanding phenomena around the universe from auroras on Earth, to flares on the surface of the sun, and even to areas surrounding black holes.