Just over a month after it achieved the closest separation ever of any multispacecraft formation, NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission has broken a new record. The mission now holds the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude fix of a GPS signal.
“The four MMS spacecraft incorporate GPS measurements into their precise tracking systems, which require extremely sensitive position and orbit calculations to guide tight flying formations,” the space agency said, adding that precise GPS tracking allows the satellites to maintain a tight formation needed for high resolution three-dimensional observations.The MMS mission began with the launch of four identical satellites on March 12, 2015. The primary goal of the mission is to investigate a scarcely understood phenomenon called magnetic reconnection, which can link the sun’s magnetic field lines to Earth’s, funneling material and energy from the sun into Earth’s magnetic environment.Scientists believe magnetic reconnection is one of the key ways material is energized in space, and it plays a crucial role in the creation of auroras on Earth, flares on the surface of the sun, and even in processes taking place in the vicinity of black holes and neutron stars.
In September, the four MMS spacecraft began flying at a distance of just four-and-a-half miles apart — the closest separation ever achieved in any multispacecraft mission.“The four MMS spacecraft fly in a pyramid shape, with one satellite marking each corner. This shape, called a tetrahedron, allows MMS to capture three-dimensional observations of magnetic reconnection – critical for fully understanding this process,” NASA said in a released at the time.
WASHINGTON: NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS) has set the Guinness World Record for highest altitude fix of a GPS signal - at 70,000 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.Operating in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth, the four MMS spacecraft incorporate Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements into their precise tracking systems, which require extremely sensitive position and orbit calculations to guide tight flying formations. Earlier this year, MMS achieved the closest flying separation of a multi-spacecraft formation with only 7.2 km between the four satellites.When the satellites are closest to Earth, they move at up to 35,405 km per hour, making them the fastest known operational use of a GPS receiver. When MMS is not breaking records, it conducts ground-breaking science. Still in the first year of its prime mission, MMS is giving scientists new insight into Earth's magnetosphere.The mission uses four individual satellites that fly in a pyramid formation to map magnetic reconnection – a process that occurs as the sun and Earth's magnetic fields interact. Precise GPS tracking allows the satellites to maintain a tight formation and obtain high resolution three-dimensional observations.Understanding the causes of magnetic reconnection is important for understanding phenomena around the universe from auroras on Earth, to flares on the surface of the sun, and even to areas surrounding black holes. Next year, MMS will enter Phase 2 of the mission and the satellites will be sent in to an even larger orbit where they will explore a different part of Earth's magnetosphere. During that time, the satellites are anticipated to break their current high altitude GPS record by a factor of two or more.