Late May Launch Planned For NASA's IRIS Sun-Observing Satellite, Now At Vandenberg AFB
April 18, 2013

Late May Launch Planned For NASA’s IRIS Sun-Observing Satellite, Now At Vandenberg AFB

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

NASA´s next satellite to go into space has just arrived (April 16) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft, which will launch no earlier than May 28, will be part of the agency's Small Explorer (SMEX) Mission, developed to deliver space exploration missions under $120 million.

IRIS was designed and built at Lockheed Martin´s Space Systems Company Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto, California. The spacecraft was developed to give scientists a better view and understanding of energy and plasma movement near the surface of our Sun, with the aim to help scientists forecast space weather more accurately.

“IRIS will contribute significantly to our understanding of the interface region between the sun's photosphere and corona,” Joe Davila, IRIS mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. “This region is crucial for understanding how the corona gets so hot.”

IRIS will carry a single instrument — the multi-channel imaging spectrograph with an ultraviolet telescope.

Eric Ianson, mission manager for IRIS at Goddard, said the high-resolution images that IRIS produces will allow scientists to implement advanced computer simulations to “unravel how matter, light, and energy move from the sun´s 6,000 Kelvin surface to its million Kelvin corona.”

“Scientists will be able to combine data from NASA´s IRIS and Solar Dynamics Observatory and the NASA/JAXA Hinode missions to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the sun´s atmosphere,” he added.

NASA´s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California will be responsible for mission operations and ground data system of IRIS. The Norwegian Space Centre will capture IRIS data with their antennas in Svalbard, which sits within the Arctic Circle in northern Norway. The Joint Science Operations Center of the Solar Dynamics Observatory will manage science data for the mission. Goddard oversees the entire SMEX project.

Once IRIS flies, under the guidance of NASA´s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it will be placed in a Sun-synchronous polar orbit for continuous solar observations. The mission is set to last two years.