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United Launch Alliance Contracted for Four NASA Missions

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There’s new science news that’s good for Colorado: United Launch Alliance has been chosen by NASA to launch four missions through 2014.  The deal is worth about $600 million to the Colorado economy.  According to a NASA press release:

The launches will be from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The four payloads are the Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission, the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites K and L, or TDRS-K and TDRS-L, missions.

Planned for launch in 2011, the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission uses two almost identical spacecraft built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. For two years, the twin probes will study the radiation belts surrounding Earth to improve our understanding of how the sun’s changing energy flow affects them.

Two new Tracking and Data Relay satellites will be launched, TDRS-K and TDRS-L, to replenish the NASA communications relay network that provides voice, data, video and telemetry links between spacecraft below geosynchronous orbit and the ground. Among the major users of the relay network are the International Space Station and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The launches are planned for 2012 and 2013.

The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission is a NASA space physics research effort to discover the fundamental plasma physics processes of magnetic reconnection that occurs when energy emanating from the sun’s solar wind interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field. Four identical satellites will be launched together in a stacked configuration. They will fly in an elliptical orbit around Earth. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Project is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., under a contract with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The launch is planned for 2014.

This is the kind of benefit that science can bring to a state.  Each mission will be launched aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket.  Such an undertaking requires a great deal of intensive scientific support – to build and support the vehicles.  Colorado benefits greatly from having institutions of higher education in place to produce the scientists and engineers necessary for these mission launches.  Colorado futher benefits from having a large footprint of aerospace-related companies.  Those companies employ folks who are very well paid, benefiting their local and state governments.  Kudos to NASA and ULA for partnering on these vehicles.  Kudos to Colorado for attracting and keeping companies like ULA.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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