(ORDO NEWS) — Two small satellites are searching for information about space weather disturbances and their subsequent impact on communications signals.
PetitSat (Plasma Enhancements in the Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite) and SPORT (Scintillation Prediction Observations Research Task) satellites arrived at the ISS on November 27, 2022 as part of SpaceX‘s 26th commercial resupply mission.
Both satellites were launched from the space station on December 29, 2022.
Both missions will study the ionosphere. The ionosphere is where the impact of space weather on our technology is felt most strongly. The International Space Station and many satellites are located here.
Radio waves and GPS signals travel through the ionosphere, and fluctuations in this layer can interfere with or even disrupt communication signals.
Fluctuations in the ionosphere lead to the formation of regions of low and high density in the plasma – bubbles and clumps, which are able to scatter radio signals, sometimes causing them to collide with each other.
The result is noisy radio signals that can reduce the reliability of communications and navigation systems, or even completely disrupt signal transmission.
Unfortunately, scientists don’t know exactly how plasma bubbles and clumps form. PetitSat and SPORT will use additional scientific instruments to investigate the conditions that cause these destructive elements to form.
SPORT is equipped with six instruments for measurements across the entire ionosphere.
This will clarify the conditions that exist immediately before the formation of plasma bubbles, and how their evolution affects terrestrial communications signals.
In addition to this, petitSat will work to determine what causes plasma clots.
Together, these missions will improve our understanding of the ever-changing space environment and expand the current capabilities of small satellites.
The more we learn about space weather, the better we can protect our astronauts, spacecraft and technology.
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