NASA to launch two missions to explore Sun, Earth’s aurora

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced the final missions of 2020 to explore the sun and to understand the system that drives space weather near the Earth. The two missions are Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission (EUVST) and Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE) that aims at understanding the physics behind the solar wind and explosions that will help scientists predict these events.

“We are very pleased to add these new missions to the growing fleet of satellites that are studying our Sun-Earth system using an amazing array of unprecedented observational tools…In addition to my enthusiasm at selecting a pioneering multi-point observatory focused on the auroral electrojets, I am particularly excited to follow up the success of the Yohkoh and Hinode solar science missions with another international collaboration with JAXA and other European partners on EUVST”, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  

The Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission (EUVST), which is targeted to launch in the year 2026, will be led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) along with other international partners. The lead investigator for this EUVST mission is Harry Warren at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. The budget for the EUVST is $55 million. The contributions to this mission by NASA are an intensified UV detector and support electronics, spectrograph components, a guide telescope, software, and a slit-jaw imaging system to provide context for the spectrographic measurement. 

The Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE) is targeted to launch by June 2024. The lead investigator of this mission is Jeng-Hwa (Sam) Yee at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland and the total budget for the EZIE mission is $53.3 million. The aim of this mission is to study electric currents in the Earth’s atmosphere linking aurora to the Earth’s magnetosphere and the changes in the auroral electrojet, an electric current that circles through Earth’s atmosphere around 60-90 miles above the surface that extends into the Earth’s magnetosphere. The EZIE is an investigation that comprises a trio of CubeSats.

Peg Luce, deputy director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said, “With these new missions, we’re expanding how we study the Sun, space, and Earth as an interconnected system…EZIE’s use of instrument technology proven on Earth science CubeSat missions is just one example of how science and technology development at NASA go hand in hand across disciplines.”

The missions’ funding comes from the Heliophysics Explorers Program which is managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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