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November 3, 2011

Space Academy Probes RBSP Mission

What are the radiation belts? What’s space weather? And why are we sending two satellites into Earth’s orbit to study these things? On Oct. 28, more than 100 students from three Maryland public middle schools (and their teachers) made a trip to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to attend Space Academy and learn the answers to these questions – and to find out much more about NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission.

This session of Space Academy took students on an up-close, behind-the-scenes exploration of how RBSP is being built, what the spacecraft are designed to study, and the many professions that work together to create a mission. APL scientists and engineers – including RBSP program manager Rick Fitzgerald, spacecraft systems engineer Karen Kirby, and radiation belt science expert Sasha Ukhorskiy – briefed the students on the mission, answered questions in a “press conference,” and even ate lunch with the kids at APL’s Kossiakoff Center. The students, who came from Arbutus (Baltimore County), Old Mill Middle South (Anne Arundel County) and Shiloh (Carroll County), then took a tour of Building 23, where RBSP is being built and tested before its scheduled launch in August 2012. The kids walked through testing facilities and got to peek inside the clean room where the RBSP spacecraft are currently undergoing the final stages of instrument and electronics integration.

Held twice a year on APL’s Laurel, Md., campus, Space Academy gives students a chance to spend a day learning about a space mission, from the people who work on it, to the science behind it, to the spacecraft being built. Space Academy is conducted in partnership with Discovery Education.

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes are scheduled to launch in August 2012 and survey the harsh environment of the radiation belts that surround Earth. APL manages the RBSP mission for NASA and will operate the spacecraft. Check back for more photos and updates as the mission moves toward launch!

Click on the thumbnail image for a larger version.


Students learn about the RBSP spacecraft � one of which is open and visible through the windows looking into the clean room � from Integration and Testing lead Elliot Rodberg.


A student poses a question to a panel of RBSP engineers and scientists at APL's Kossiakoff Center.


Over pizza, spacecraft systems engineer Karen Kirby talks to students about the RBSP mission.


After lunch, students donned disposable clean room suits ("bunny suits") before their tour of APL's spacecraft facilities.

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