NASA LWS Radiation Belt Storm Probe
Energetic ions and electrons within the Earth’s radiation belts pose a hazard to both astronauts and spacecraft. The LWS Geospace program will launch two spacecraft, the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, to quantify the source, loss, and transport processes that generate the radiation belts and cause them to decay. Observations from the two spacecraft will enable the development of empirical and physics-based models for the radiation belts. The empirical models will be used by engineers to design radiation-hardened spacecraft, while the physics-based models will be used by forecasters to predict geomagnetic storms and alert both astronauts and spacecraft operators to potential hazards. Science investigations were selected in 2006, the RBSP spacecraft will be launched in 2012.
Professor Thorne was on the initial Mission Definition Team for RBSP and is a Co-I and theory lead on both the ECT (particle) and EMFISIS (wave) teams. His group at UCLA is currently developing 3-D models for the interaction between waves and particles, which will be used, in conjunction with the RBSP observations, to test theoretical models for radiation belt variability.