Van Allen Probes: Successful launch campaign and early operations exploring Earth\textquoterights radiation belts
The twin Van Allen Probe observatories developed at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for NASA\textquoterights Heliophysics Division completed final observatory integration and environmental test activities and were successfully launched into orbit around the Earth on August 30, 2012. As the science operations phase begins, the mission is providing exciting new information about the impact of radiation belt activity on the earth. The on-board boom mounted magnetometers and other instruments are the most sensitive sensors of their type that have ever flown in the Van Allen radiation belts. The observatories are producing near-Earth space weather information that can be used to provide warnings of potential power grid interruptions or satellite damaging storms. The Van Allen Probes are operating in a challenging high radiation environment, and at the same time they are designed to make an insubstantial electric and magnetic field contribution to their surroundings. This paper will describe the challenges associated with observatory integration and test activities and observatory on-orbit checkout and commissioning. The lessons learned can be applied to other observatories and payloads that will be exposed to similar environments.
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Big Sky, MT, USA