An Air Force satellite launched into orbit this week via SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket carries an instrument built by UMass Lowell researchers to conduct experiments in space.
Space is a harsh and dangerous place. Aside from temperature extremes, high vacuum and bombardment of cosmic rays, there are also extremely high-energy particles—dubbed "killer electrons—that can pose a hazard to the health of astronauts and shorten the lifespan of orbiting satellites. These electrons are the subject of the research being conducted by UMass Lowell via the satellite.
Electrons - Speed - Light - Satellites - Electronics
"These electrons, traveling at nearly the speed of light, are capable of damaging the satellites' sensitive electronics and exposing astronauts to high doses of radiation," said UMass Lowell Physics Prof. Paul Song of the university's Space Science Lab.
To help understand how these harmful electrons are generated and, consequently, how they can be mitigated, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) awarded a three-year contract to a team of UMass Lowell researchers led by Song to support the Air Force's Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) mission to the Earth's radiation belts. The DSX's objective is to explore the role of "wave-particle interaction" in the dynamics of these killer electrons.
Project - Decade - Processes - Electrons - UMass
The project started more than a decade ago to investigate the possible physical processes involved with the electrons. The UMass Lowell team, then under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Bodo Reinisch, designed and built a high-power space radio-wave transmitter as part of the DSX's Wave Particle Interaction Experiment. It is expected that the transmitted waves will interact with the killer electrons. The transmitter, which is one of the primary instruments aboard the DSX satellite, will send out Very Low Frequency (VLF) transmissions into space using a long dipole antenna that measures more than 260 feet when deployed.
During the mission, the UMass Lowell researchers will help operate the VLF transmitter and analyze...
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