Two missions of POT will go on a ‘road trip’ together in a rocket SpaceX to orbit in April 2025, the agency announced.
On board a SpaceX rocket Falcon 9 there will be five spacecraft, one dedicated to astrophysics and the other four to a mission dedicated to solar science.
NASA said the “carpool” deal, as they called it, would save expense and hassle, in a statement released on Wednesday (Aug. 3).
“Rideshares are a great way to save money,” Craig DeForest, PUNCH principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in the release.
NASA launches with SpaceX
The NASA and SpaceX dual launch will take place from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
PUNCH, known more formally as the Unifying Coronal and Heliosphere Polarimeter, will study the solar wind, the constant stream of charged particles streaming from the sun.
The four-satellite mission pushed back its launch date by two years from 2023 to overcome supply chain issues during manufacturing, the agency added.
The mission will join SPHEREx (short for Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer), whose launch date is also pushed back from an initial target of June 2024.
SPHEREx’s mission will not only be to map 300 million galaxies in the universe and 100 million stars in the Milky Way, but also to search for signs of water and organic molecules (favorable to life).
These elements are present in stellar nurseries, or regions filled with gas and dust that surround young stars.
PUNCH, meanwhile, will examine solar ejecta along with the sun’s superheated corona, in another agency effort to study the origin of the solar wind.
It will add to the investigations of Parker Solar Probe, which periodically enters the corona to closely examine this critical region, among other investigations.
The goal of examining the corona is to better predict space weather or solar activity that may affect Earthlings and satellites near our planet.
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