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NASA science instrument ready to study critical space weather boundary zone

25 January 2018

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A $66 million NASA-funded science sensor package bolted on to a commercial communications satellite is ready for a ride toward a 22,000-mile-high orbital perch Thursday on a European Ariane 5 rocket, commencing a two-year mission surveying a rarely-studied region of Earth's upper atmosphere.

The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, instrument is mounted on the SES 14 satellite, a commercial telecom craft awaiting liftoff Thursday from the European-run Guiana Space Center on the northern coast of South America.

Developed by scientists at the University of Central Florida and the University of Colorado-Boulder, GOLD will map the composition and temperature of the upper atmosphere across the Western Hemisphere once every 30 minutes. Researchers said the instrument will yield a better understanding of how layers of the upper atmosphere — the thermosphere and ionosphere — react when bombarded with radiation from the sun above or influenced by weather systems below.

Data from GOLD could help improve space weather forecasts, providing better warnings of events that could spark auroral storms, communications and navigation outages, disruptions to aviation, and danger for astronauts and satellites.

Source: Spaceflight Now

Image credit: JM Guillon - The Airbus-built SES 14 communications satellite and the GOLD payload are readied for attachment to its Ariane 5 rocket. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

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