NASA approves two missions to better understand space weather

The agency has set aside around $55 million for each project.


NASA will take part in two heliophysics missions that could give us the data needed to better understand solar winds and explosions, or space weather as a whole. The agency has officially announced its participation in the Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission (EUVST) and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE) program. They were two of the three space weather-related proposals NASA selected in September 2019 to receive $400,000 for a nine-month mission concept study.

EUVST is a solar telescope project that will look more closely into how the sun’s atmosphere releases solar winds and spews out solar materials, which affect space radiation levels. The project, which is scheduled for launch in 2026, is led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), but NASA will pour $55 million into the mission. Its contributions include hardware like UV detectors, support electronics, spectrograph components and a guide telescope.

Meanwhile, EZIE will use three small satellites to study the auroral electrojet, or the electrical currents above the poles linking aurora to the Earth’s magnetosphere. Scientists want to look into the electrojet, since the same phenomenon that causes the aurora can also interfere with radio and communication signals, as well as damage spacecraft in orbit.

Space agencies are sending out these types of missions so that they can gather the information needed to understand the physics behind various solar phenomena. In fact, NASA picked five more space weather mission proposals in August and gave them $1.25 million each to conduct a concept study. The ultimate goal is to be able to predict events like solar flares and coronal mass ejections to be able to protect astronauts, spacecraft and other technologies in the future.