At the conclusion of a Flight Readiness Review on Friday, March 6, NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) managers gave a “go” to continue preparations leading to the planned liftoff of the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft atop a ULA Atlas V rocket at 10:44 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 12. The Mission Dress Rehearsal, during which MMS and the Atlas will be powered up, is scheduled for Monday, March 9. The final management review before flight, the Launch Readiness Review (LRR), will be conducted on Tuesday, March 10. Following the LRR, NASA Television will air the MMS Prelaunch News Conference at 1 p.m. EDT.
MMS will study magnetic reconnection, a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe when magnetic fields connect and disconnect explosively, releasing energy and accelerating particles up to nearly the speed of light. Unlike previous missions that have observed only evidence of magnetic reconnection events, MMS has sufficient resolution to observe and measure reconnection events as they occur. While MMS will fly through reconnection regions in less than a second, key sensors on each spacecraft are able to capture measurements 100 times faster than any previous mission. In addition, MMS consists of four identical observatories, which together will provide the first ever three-dimensional view of magnetic reconnection.
The mission observes reconnection directly in Earth’s protective magnetic space environment known as the magnetosphere. By studying reconnection in this local, natural laboratory, MMS helps scientists understand reconnection elsewhere, such as in the atmosphere of the sun and other stars, in the vicinity of black holes and neutron stars and at the boundary between our solar system’s heliosphere and interstellar space.