NASA has selected a new mission called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment or simply the SunRISE to study how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms into planetary space. The SunRISE is an array of six CubeSats operating as one very large radio telescope which will be built and launched by no earlier than July 1, 2023.
The six small spacecrafts — each about the size of a toaster oven — will be stationed around 10 km apart into the geosynchronous Earth orbit and work together to capture radio images of low-frequency emissions from solar activity. These images will help create 3D maps of solar particle bursts to pinpoint where giant particle bursts originate on the Sun and how they evolve as they expand outward into space.
NASA believes that the information will also help determine what initiates and accelerates these giant jets of radiation.
“Not only will such information improve understanding of how our solar system works, but it ultimately can help protect astronauts travelling to the Moon and Mars by providing better information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment they must travel through,” NASA said in a statement.
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“We are so pleased to add a new mission to our fleet of spacecraft that help us better understand the Sun, as well as how our star influences the space environment between planets,” Nicky Fox, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division said. “The more we know about how the Sun erupts with space weather events, the more we can mitigate their effects on spacecraft and astronauts.”
The space agency had selected the SunRISE project in August 2017 as one of two Missions of Opportunity proposals to conduct an 11-month mission concept study. In February 2019, NASA approved a continued formulation study for SunRISE for an additional year. Now, the mission has been deemed ready to begin design and building with a total budget of $62.6 million.
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