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December 14, 2011

RBSP Passes Acoustic Testing

NASA’s twin Radiation Belt Storm Probe satellites recently underwent successful acoustic testing at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

These tests, which took place during the first week of December, simulated the incredibly loud noises generated during launch and the beginning of supersonic travel, when the launch vehicle passes through the sound barrier (approximately 770 miles per hour). These sounds, which can reach a maximum of 134 decibels (nearly as loud as a jet engine from 100 feet away), were duplicated by a specialized speaker system that is controlled via computer to match the sonic profiles of launch and supersonic barrier breakthrough. The RBSP satellites were mated together as they will be for launch and placed at the center of a circular wall of powerful loudspeakers for this test. One of the substantial challenges for RBSP is that it must survive launch as a single unit; later, above Earth, the satellites will be separated and guided to their individual orbits.

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!

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