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Van Allen Probes

Van Allen Probes mission graphic

Radiation Belt Storm Probes (renamed “Van Allen Probes” in November, 2012)

Phase: Operating

Launch Date: August 2012

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Program(s):Heliophysics Research, Living With a Star

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The Van Allen Probes are designed to help us understand the Sun’s influence on Near-Earth space by studying the Earth’s radiation belts on various scales of space and time.

The instruments on NASA’s Living With a Star Program’s (LWS) twin Van Allen Probes provide the measurements needed to characterize and quantify the plasma processes that produce very energetic ions and relativistic electrons. The Van Allen Probes are part of the broader LWS program whose missions explore the connected sun-Earth system and in particular those that generate hazardous space weather effects in the vicinity of Earth and phenomena that could impact solar system exploration. The Van Allen Probes instruments measure the properties of charged particles that comprise the Earth’s radiation belts, the plasma waves that interact with them, the large-scale electric fields that transport them, and the magnetic field that guides them.

The two Van Allen Probes have nearly identical eccentric orbits. The orbits cover the entire radiation belt region and the two spacecraft lap each other. Van Allen Probes in situ measurements discriminate between spatial and temporal effects, and compare the effects of various proposed mechanisms for charged particle acceleration and loss.