Denver, Colo., (Mar. 16, 2009) - NASA has awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA) four science and communications missions set to launch in the first half of the next decade. All four missions will fly aboard ULA's Atlas V rocket and are scheduled to launch between 2011-2014. The four launches are the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), two Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS-K and TDRS-L) and the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission.
The launches will be provided under terms of a launch service agreement procured previously by NASA's Kennedy Space Center for this vehicle. The liftoffs will all occur from Space Launch Complex-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., will manage all four missions.
"We are proud NASA selected United Launch Alliance and the Atlas V to launch these unique science and communications missions," said Michael Gass, ULA President and Chief Executive Officer. "ULA has a strong and proud history of supporting NASA programs, and we look forward to continuing this rich tradition."
Details of the four missions awarded to ULA are:
Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP): This mission is set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2011. Part of NASA's Living with a Star program, the RBSP mission will provide understanding, to the point of predictability, of how populations of relativistic electrons and ions in space are formed or changed in response to the variable inputs of energy from the sun. Launching on an Atlas V 401 configuration, the objectives of the RBSP mission will be accomplished using two identical spacecraft, currently identified as RBSP-A and RBSP-B, flying through the Van Allen Radiation Belts in highly elliptical orbits at low inclination. The two spacecraft will launch together in a stacked configuration with RBSP-A sitting on top of RBSP-B.
Two Tracking and Data Relay Satellite missions, (TDRS-K and TDRS-L):TDRS-K is set to launch in the first quarter of 2012, and TDRS-L is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2013. The two satellites will become part of Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). TDRSS is a communication signal relay system that provides tracking and data acquisition services between low earth orbiting spacecraft and control and/or data processing facilities.
The system is capable of transmitting to and receiving data from spacecraft over at least 85 percent of the spacecraft's orbit. Launching aboard an Atlas V 401 configuration, the TDRS-K and L spacecraft will be used to replace aging satellites in the current configuration. Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS)
:MMS is scheduled to launch no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2014. MMS is a NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Heliophysics Division flight project in the Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program. MMS is a space physics research mission to discover the fundamental plasma physics processes of magnetic reconnection in the Earth's magnetosphere. Magnetic reconnection occurs when the charged particles and energy emanating from the sun in the Solar Wind interact with the Earth's magnetic field. Four identically instrumented satellites will measure electric and magnetic fields, fast plasma, energetic particles, and hot plasma composition at time scales of milliseconds to seconds and spatial scales of 10s to 100s of kilometers. MMS will launch on an Atlas V 421 configuration.
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