The two Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft arrive at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. on Nov. 9 for major testing as they near completion. Set to launch in Spring 2006, STEREO is the first mission to image the sun and solar wind in 3-D. This new view is critical to improving our understanding of space weather and its impact to space and on Earth systems.
After solar array deployment tests on Observatory B (the one that will be placed “behind” Earth in its orbit around the sun), APL STEREO technicians inspect solar blankets covering the hinges that connect the solar arrays to the spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
During its two-year mission, the two nearly identical spacecraft will explore the origin, evolution, and interplanetary consequences of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the most violent explosions in our solar system. When directed at Earth, these billion-ton eruptions can disrupt satellites, radio communications, and power systems. In addition, energetic particles associated with CMEs are a serious hazard to spacecraft and astronauts.
"The arrival of both observatories at GSFC is a critical milestone for the STEREO project. The fully integrated observatories look great and represent a lot of hard work from a very dedicated APL/GSFC team. The next few months will be exciting as we put them through a rigorous space simulation test program in preparation for launch," said Mark Jarosz, Observatory Manager for the STEREO Project at NASA Goddard.
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