The new mission was named Dione, in honor of the ancient Greek goddess of the oracles, and is based on four miniaturized satellites, which integrate different instruments.
The goal is to study how the upper atmospheric layers of the Earth react to the constantly changing flow of solar energy in the magnetosphere – the bubble surrounding the magnetic field around the Earth that deflects most of the particles emitted by the Sun.
Scheduled for launch in 2022, the new mission will help scientists understand these reactions, which in turn influence what is called atmospheric drag, a process that causes satellites with low Earth orbit to prematurely reintegrate the atmosphere. In addition, the mission also provides important data to improve forecasts for space weather.
NASA stresses that the Earth's upper atmosphere where most low-orbit satellites reside, which end up being heavily affected by the sudden changes in density created by the space climate.
"As more aspects of everyday life depend on the predictable functioning of satellites in low Earth orbit, understanding and the ability to predict the impact of the space climate on these assets has become a national security need," said the mission investigator. , Eftyhia Zesta, scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Measurements traditionally collected by larger and more expensive satellites should now be performed thinking outside the box – or rather, inside a CubeSat box. Dione make way to accomplish just that, added Eftyhia Zesta.
Among the instruments that the Dione mission's CubeSat will integrate are a magnetometer, a neutral and ionic mass spectrometer (INMS) and a double electrostatic analyzer. NASA explains what each one is destined to find out.
Mini-satellites are an increasingly used resource, since, despite their small size, they manage to perform a variety of functions, with less resources and costs involved. See some of those who have already been launched into the air.