Satellite Launched for Space Study
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) _ A NASA satellite was sent into orbit to study solar events that may endanger astronauts and spacecraft.
The $39 million Transition Region and Coronal Explorer satellite _ known as Trace _ was boosted on a Pegasus XL rocket dropped from a jet flying at 39,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman Jim Sahly said.
The satellite will observe the sun for a year. Its goal: to study the connection between the sun’s magnetic fields and the heating of its corona.
Scientists want to know more about solar events that have the potential to threaten astronauts and disrupt use of orbiting satellites that have such critical functions as communications, navigation, weather forecasting and national security.
Periods of intense solar activity _ massive flarings and huge eruptions _ will occur in the coming months of the sun’s cycle. The big events are interspersed with periods of relative quiet. Trace is intended to study the complete range of solar conditions.