NASA to launch GOLD mission to study Earth's boundary with space

It is the first NASA science mission to fly an instrument as a commercially hosted payload.

NASA to launch GOLD mission to study Earth's boundary with space

Washington: NASA is set to launch on Thursday Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, the mission to study the dynamic region where space and Earth`s uppermost atmosphere meet.

It is the first NASA science mission to fly an instrument as a commercially hosted payload, the US space agency said on Wednesday. 

The mission will fly aboard SES-14, a commercial communications satellite.

 

Space is not completely empty. It is teeming with fast-moving charged particles and electric and magnetic fields that guide their motion. 

At the boundary between Earth`s atmosphere and space, the charged particles — called the ionosphere — co-exist with the upper reaches of the neutral atmosphere, called the thermosphere. 

The two commingle and influence one another constantly.

This interplay — and the role terrestrial weather, space weather and Earth`s own magnetic field each have in it — is the focus of GOLD`s mission. 

"The upper atmosphere is far more variable than previously imagined, but we don`t understand the interactions between all the factors involved," said Richard Eastes, GOLD principal investigator at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

"That`s where GOLD comes in: For the first time, the mission gives us the big picture of how different drivers meet and influence each other," Eastes added. 

Arianespace, a commercial aerospace company, will be launching GOLD`s host commercial communications satellite, SES-14, for SES from Kourou, French Guiana.

The launch coverage by NASA television will start at 5 pm EST (3.30 am Friday, India time).