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Europe plans 5 new science satellites.

Europe plans 5 new science satellites

Plans for five new satellites to study the sun and its interactions with the earth's magnetosphere have been unanimously approved by the European Space Agency (ESA) as the organization's major new scientific project. Envisioned for 1993-95 launchings, the craft are considered to represent the first of four "cornerstones" identified in 1984 as the major items in an ESA plan for European space-science research through the end of the century.

Four of the satellites, collectively known as Cluster, are to be launched aboard a single vehicle - either the space shuttle or Europe's unmanned Ariane 4 -- into a complex family of earth-circling orbits that will let them simultaneously monitor differents parts of the geomagnetic field. Together, they will study: the "bow shock" formed where the field holds the incoming solar wind at bay; the charged particles of the magnetosphere itself; the polar "cusp regions" where the solar-wind particles find their way in; and the field's extended "tail."

The fifth entry is SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which will be stationed on the sunward side of earth's magnetosphere to monitor the solar wind in its "raw" form, before it is affected by the presence of the earth. SOHO will be located at a "Largrangian point," where the gravitational attractions of the earth and sun are balanced. This was the position formerly occupied by a satellite known as International Sun-Earth Explorer 3, which was shifted from that location and which, using the name of ICE, flew through the tail of comet Giacobini-Zinner last Sept. 11.

Together, Cluster and SOHO have been envisioned a Europehs primary entries in a proposed International Solar-Terrestrial Physics program, which would also include participation from the United States and Japan. NASA budgetary limitations have slowed the U.S. role to an uncertain level, though the European plans are designed to go forward whether the United States participates or not.
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Author:Eberhart, Jonathan
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 22, 1986
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