NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probe Mission Takes Flight

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Atlas soars with NASA radiation mission probes. Photo Credit: NASA TV 

NASA's twin Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission spacecraft roared into Earth orbit early Thursday, initiating a $686 million two-year prime mission for studies of high energy particle fluctuations within the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts, including their response to solar activity and influences on space weather.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 401 rocket carrying the two 1,400 pound probes rose from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 4:05 a.m., EDT, on an easterly trajectory.

The Atlas 5 and its Centaur upper stage propelled the two 1,400 pound spacecraft developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University toward a highly elliptical equatorial orbit that will permit the satellites to move in tandem through the Van Allen belts.

Efforts to launch the RBSP spacecraft on Aug. 24th and 25th  were scrubbed because of a drift in frequency noted in the C-band transponder on the Atlas 5 Centaur upper stage and stormy weather.

The faulty transponder was replaced during the latest delay. Thursday's launch activities unfolded with an absence of technical issues. Weather was not an issue during the countdown

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