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NASA Approves Two Heliophysics Missions With $108M Total Budget; Thomas Zurbuchen Quoted

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Thomas Zurbuchen
Thomas Zurbuchen NASA

NASA has authorized two heliophysics research missions worth potentially $108.3 million combined to study solar impact and space weather near the Earth’s atmosphere.

The agency said Wednesday the first mission is a $53.3 million geomagnetic research effort known as Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE) led by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and slated for launch in June 2024.

EZIE will utilize cube satellites deployed 60 to 90 miles above Earth to study the behavior of aurora and its impact to the magnetosphere. Aurora tends to interfere with communications and radio signals in addition to damaging spacecraft, according to NASA.

The mission will use the Auroral Electrojet index as well as ultraviolet spectroscopy concepts for measuring solar activity. 

The second $55 million effort, known as Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope (EUVST) Epsilon Mission, will be led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and is scheduled for 2026. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will lead the NASA contribution to the mission.

The EUVST solar telescope will work to observe the release of solar wind as well as the eruption of solar material which impact the space radiation environment. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, said he is looking forward to continuing international collaborations with JAXA as well as European partners for EUVST.

“We are very pleased to add these new missions to the growing fleet of satellites that are studying our Sun-Earth system using an amazing array of unprecedented observational tools,” he noted.