The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has approved two missions to explore the sun and the system that drives space weather near earth.
These missions are the Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST, and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer, or EZIE.
These missions are meant to help researchers better understand the sun and the earth as an interconnected system.
“Understanding the physics that drive the solar wind and solar explosions – including solar flares and coronal mass ejections – could one day help scientists predict these events, which can impact human technology and explorers in space,” NASA explained in an official release.
The EUVST Epsilon Mission (Solar-C EUVST Mission) will be led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), along with other international partners. It is targeted for launch in 2026.
The EUVST is a solar telescope that will study the manner in which the solar atmosphere releases solar wind and drives eruptions of solar material. NASA will contribute hardware including an intensified UV detector and support electronics, spectrograph components, a guide telescope, software, and a slit-jaw imaging system to the mission. This will help provide context for the spectrographic measurement. NASA will contribute $55 million to the EUVST mission budget.
EZIE is meant to study electric currents in earth’s atmosphere linking the aurora to the earth’s magnetosphere, explained NASA.
The aurora, which is a part of the earth’s complicated space weather system, responds to solar activity and other factors.
“The Auroral Electrojet (AE) index is a common measure of geomagnetic activity levels, even though the details of the structure of these currents are not understood,” it explained.
EZIE will leverage a trio of CubeSats to study the source of and changes in the auroral electrojet, an “electric current circling through earth’s atmosphere around 60-90 miles above the surface and extending into the earth’s magnetosphere,” as per NASA.
EZIE is targeted for launch no earlier than June 2024. The total budget for the EZIE mission is $53.3 million.
“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,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA headquarters in Washington. “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.”
“With these new missions, we’re expanding how we study the sun, space, and earth as an interconnected system,” said Peg Luce, deputy director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA headquarters in Washington. “EZIE’s use of instrument technology, proven on earth science CubeSat missions, is just one example of how science and technology developments at NASA go hand-in-hand across disciplines.”