ESA SWARMing Earth's magnetic field

November 25, 2013
The magnetic field and electric currents near Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable impact on our everyday lives. Although we know that the magnetic field originates from several sources, exactly how it is generated and why it changes is not yet fully understood. ESA’s Swarm mission will help untangle the complexities of the field. Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

ESA's three-satellite Swarm constellation was lofted into a near-polar orbit by a Russian Rockot launcher this afternoon. For four years, it will monitor Earth's magnetic field, from the depth of our planet's core to the heights of its upper atmosphere.

The Swarm satellites will give us unprecedented insights into the complex workings of the magnetic shield that protects our biosphere from charged particles and cosmic radiation. They will perform precise measurements to evaluate its current weakening and understand how it contributes to .

The Rockot launcher lifted off from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET) on 22 November.

Some 91 minutes later, its Breeze-KM upper stage released the three satellites into a near-polar circular orbit at an altitude of 490 km.

Contact was established with the trio minutes later through the Kiruna station in Sweden and the Svalbard station in Norway.

All three satellites are controlled by ESA teams at the European Space Operation Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. In the next hours they will deploy their 4 m-long instrument booms. Over the next three months of commissioning, their scientific payloads will be verified and they will move to their respective operational orbits.

The lower pair will fly in formation side by side, about 150 km (10 seconds) apart at the equator and at an initial altitude of 460 km, while the upper will rise to a higher orbit, at 530 km.

"Swarm is about to fill a gap in our view of the Earth system and in our monitoring of global change issues," noted Volker Liebig, ESA's director for Earth observation.

"It will help us to better understand the field that protects us from the particles and radiation coming from the Sun."

Explore further: Swarm on the launchpad

Related Stories

Swarm on the launchpad

November 19, 2013

Preparations for Friday's launch of ESA's magnetic explorer have reached an important milestone – the constellation is now in the Plesetsk launch tower.

Swarm mission control ready for triple launch

November 20, 2013

After months of intensive training, the Swarm mission control team are ready for liftoff on Friday. The team will carefully shepherd the trio of magnetic explorers through their critical launch and early orbit phase, ready ...

Swarm launch postponed

October 31, 2013

The launch of ESA's magnetic field mission from Plesetsk, Russia, has been postponed by about a week.

Satellites packed like sardines

November 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —The complex task of placing all three Swarm satellites on their launch adapter is complete. This is another significant milestone in preparing ESA's latest Earth observation mission for liftoff, which is now ...

Swarm constellation heads north

February 20, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The three satellites that make up ESA's Swarm magnetic field mission were presented to the media today. Following a demanding testing programme, the satellites were displayed in the cleanroom before they ...

Recommended for you

NASA telescope studies quirky comet 45P

November 22, 2017

When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial ...

Cassini image mosaic: A farewell to Saturn

November 21, 2017

In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series ...

Uncovering the origins of galaxies' halos

November 21, 2017

Using the Subaru Telescope atop Maunakea, researchers have identified 11 dwarf galaxies and two star-containing halos in the outer region of a large spiral galaxy 25 million light-years away from Earth. The findings, published ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (2) Nov 27, 2013
sub:Magnetic Fields Sensex
ESA mission approach is doing excellent service to Humanity.The Magnetic Field-Flow lines form an essential link in Plasma Regulated Electromagnetic phenomena in magnetic field Environment. More details were given in my ESA proposals-2010.-Cluster and Solar orbiter.
Recent COSPAR-2013, one can see NANDI-an introduction of new concept for flo-fields Integration.vidyardhi nanduri, cosmology vedas iNdependat Research.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.