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Wham! NASA claims 'picture-perfect' blast-off for tricky MAGNETIC EXPLOSIONS mission
Why do these powerful events nobble Earth's comms?
Vid NASA boffins crowed that the U.S. space agency had successfully launched its four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft into Earth's orbit on Friday.
The mission, the first of its kind, involves studying the so-called magnetic reconnection phenomenon that is understood to cause powerful explosions in our solar system.
It's expected to help scientists not only grasp a better understanding of the process, but should also give them more insight into the striking events, which have been known to hamper Earth's communications networks and GPS navigation, among other things.
The mission will provide the first three-dimensional views of reconnection occurring in Earth's protective magnetic space environment, the magnetosphere.
Magnetic reconnection occurs when magnetic fields connect, disconnect, and reconfigure explosively, releasing bursts of energy that can reach the order of billions of megatons of trinitrotoluene (commonly known as TNT).
These explosions can send particles surging through space near the speed of light.
Thursday's lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket was described by NASA blast-off boss Omar Baez as "picture perfect."
The four octagonal disc-shaped spacecraft – working as a science lab – are now said to be flying in a loose, pyramid formation through space to measure the magnetic reconnection phenomenon as it occurs in different parts of Earth's magnetosphere.
NASA added: "The spacecraft will fly the first phase of the mission in an elliptical orbit of 1,600 miles above Earth to reach out more than 43,000 miles from the planet. After a year-and-a-half in that orbit, the MMS formation will take its orbit out to 95,000 miles, almost halfway to the moon." ®