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Current Affairs

NASA to launch Atmospheric Waves Experiment

Date: 01 March 2019 Tags: Space

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has approved new mission titled Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) to study and understand vast space weather system around Earth for forecasting purpose. It will be launched in August 2022 and will attached to exterior of Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)

  • Objective of AWE is study and focus on airglow, a colourful bands of light in Earth's atmosphere to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in upper atmosphere.
  • It will first such experiment to obtain global observations of important driver of space weather in dynamic region of Earth's upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.
  • It was selected for development based on its potential science value and the feasibility of its development plans.
  • It was earlier Mission of Opportunity under NASA's Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill scientific gap between its larger missions.

Need for this mission

Studying space weather is significant as it can have profound impacts, affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and at its most severe, overwhelming power grids. It was earlier thought that only Sun's constant outflow of ultraviolet (UV) light and particles, solar wind, could affect airglow region. However, now researchers now have learned that solar variability is not enough to drive changes observed at this region and Earth's weather also having effect on it. Hence to understand this deeper, AWE mission will investigate how waves in lower atmosphere, caused by variations in densities of different packets of air, impact upper atmosphere.