When it launches in 2014, NASA's new Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will give scientists unprecedented insights into a little-understood physical process at the heart all space weather. This process, known as magnetic reconnection, sparks solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other phenomena that can imperil Earth-orbiting spacecraft and even power grids on terra firma.
MMS's assignment is to study this mysterious process that occurs when magnetic fields cross and reconnect, releasing magnetic energy in the form of heat and charged particle kinetic energy. But this is just part of the story.
MMS requires a technologically advanced system of four identically equipped with spacecraft, which will fly in a tight, tetrahedral formation in Earth's magnetic environment the magnetosphere considered the best laboratory for studying magnetic reconnection. But the technological advances needed for MMS start long before the spacecraft are put together. Such advances are also found inside the brand new, 4,200-square-foot, environmentally friendly facility where engineers and scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will assemble and integrate the four spacecraft.
"Everyone can get very excited about the science MMS will gather. That's the cool part," says Dave Richardson, the Goddard facilities project manager who managed the facility's development. "But what people may not appreciate is that a lot of state-of-the-art technology went into enabling this mission."
The new high-tech facility resides in former warehouse space that a team of contractors and Goddard employees transformed into a "smart cleanroom." The air inside the space is relatively free of dust, aerosol particles, and chemical vapors contaminants that can damage highly sensitive science instruments and hardware. To give perspective, outdoor air in a typical urban area contains one million pa
|Contact: Susan Hendrix|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center