Lockheed Martin Space Systems delivers flight hardware to NASA for magnetospheric multiscale mission

PALO ALTO, Calif., 15 June 2012. Employees at the Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Space Systems Advanced Technology Center (ATC) have delivered several hardware subsystems for NASA’s magnetosphereic multiscale mission (MMS). The delivery consisted of four flight subsystems and one flight spare unit. The prime contractor, Southwest Research Institute (SWRI), partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop and build the Hot Plasma Composition Analyzer (HPCA) as part of the MMS instrument suite.

The mission, scheduled to launch in 2014, will provide unprecedented insight into magnetic reconnection, a little-understood physical process at the heart of space weather. Magnetic reconnection sparks solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other phenomena that can endanger Earth-orbiting spacecraft and terrestrial power grids. Data from MMS will provide researchers some clarity into the mechanisms involved in magnetic reconnection and associated phenomena.

Magnetic reconnection at the Earth’s magnetopause is the mechanism by which magnetic fields in different regions change topology to open magnetospheric field lines. This connection allows energy and momentum to flow from the solar wind into the magnetosphere.

The MMS mission is part of NASA’s Heliophysics Division and will use Earth's magnetosphere as a laboratory to study magnetic reconnection, a fundamental plasma-physical process that taps the energy stored in a magnetic field and converts it, typically explosivly, into heat and kinetic energy in the form of charged particle acceleration and large-scale flows of matter.

The MMS mission is a solar terrestrial probe mission consisting of four identically equipped spacecraft that will use Earth's magnetosphere to study the microphysics of magnetic reconnection and two other fundamental plasma processes: energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence. These processes have implications for many space science research areas since they occur in all astrophysical plasma systems but can be studied in situ only in our solar system and most efficiently only in Earth’s magnetosphere, where they control the dynamics of the geospace environment and play a significant role in space weather.

The four satellites of the MMS mission will be deployed in an orbit to skim the boundary layer between the magnetosphere and the interplanetary magnetic field where magnetic reconnection is known to exist. The MMS spacecraft are being developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland. GSFC is also responsible for the overall management of the MMS mission and mission operations.

The ATC is the research and development organization of the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSSC) and creates the technology foundation for the company’s business. In addition, the ATC conducts basic research into understanding and predicting space weather and the behavior of our sun, including its impacts on Earth and climate.

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