NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission is set to lift off at 10:44 p.m. EDT Thursday, March 12 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. There is a 30-minute window for the launch.
NASA Television launch coverage begins at 8 p.m. NASA TV also will air a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, a mission science briefing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, and a NASA Social at 3 p.m. on March 12, all originating from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
MMS will study magnetic reconnection, a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe when magnetic fields connect and disconnect explosively, releasing energy and accelerating particles up to nearly the speed of light. Unlike previous missions that have observed only evidence of magnetic reconnection events, MMS has sufficient resolution to observe and measure reconnection events as they occur. While MMS will fly through reconnection regions in less than a second, key sensors on each spacecraft are able to capture measurements 100 times faster than any previous mission. In addition, MMS consists of four identical observatories, which together will provide the first ever three-dimensional view of magnetic reconnection.
The mission observes reconnection directly in Earth's protective magnetic space environment known as the magnetosphere. By studying reconnection in this local, natural laboratory, MMS helps scientists understand reconnection elsewhere, such as in the atmosphere of the sun and other stars, in the vicinity of black holes and neutron stars and at the boundary between our solar system's heliosphere and interstellar space.