Context: NASA has selected a new mission to study how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms – known as solar particle storms – into planetary space.

Overview of the mission- the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE):

It is an array of six CubeSats operating as one very large radio telescope.

NASA has awarded $62.6 million to design, build and launch SunRISE by no earlier than July 1, 2023.

Objectives of the mission:

To study how the Sun creates and releases giant solar particle storms.

To help scientists understand the workings of the Solar System.

How it works?

The mission design relies on six solar-powered CubeSats to simultaneously observe radio images of low-frequency emission from solar activity and share them via NASA’s Deep Space Network.

The constellation of CubeSats would fly within 6 miles of each other, above Earth’s atmosphere, which otherwise blocks the radio signals SunRISE will observe.

Together, the six CubeSats will create 3D maps to pinpoint where giant particle bursts originate on the Sun and how they evolve as they expand outward into space.

This, in turn, will help determine what initiates and accelerates these giant jets of radiation.

The six individual spacecraft will also work together to map, for the first time, the pattern of magnetic field lines reaching from the Sun out into interplanetary space.

Why study solar particle storms?

This information will help improve understanding of how our solar system works.

It can help protect astronauts traveling to the Moon and Mars by providing better information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment they must travel through.

Background:

NASA had chosen two missions in August 2017 for its Mission of Opportunity program, a part of its Explorers Program, to conduct an 11-month concept study. The SunRise mission was one of the two missions.

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