This March will see the launch of the NASA Magnetospheric MultiScale Launch also known as the MMS mission. Thanks to Austrian support, an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, will be scheduled to lift off at 10:44 p.m. EDT Thursday on March 12 from the Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Additional informations on the technical launch details can be found on the Kennedy Space Center website.
The MMS launch has garnered substantial attention in the Aerospace community as it will constitute the first space mission dedicated to the study of magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection being the fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe where magnetic fields connect and disconnect with an explosive release of energy.
In order to detect magnetic fluctuations in space, NASA consulted Austrian Aeronautic expertise in devising specific fluxgate magnetometers. The fluxgates carrying a permeable material that changes properties in response to the presence of magnetic fields. The fluxgate magnetometers ended up being a truly transatlantic project, the AFG sensors being provided by the University of California in Los Angeles and the DFG instrumentation reigning from Austria's Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz, Austria.
In sum, “This is the perfect time for this mission,” says Jim Burch, principal investigator of the MMS instrument suite science team at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas. “MMS is a crucial next step in advancing the science of magnetic reconnection." A step made possible in parts thanks to Austria!