The HESSI spacecraft
FROM NASA PRESS KIT
Posted: February 3, 2002
When combined with the imaging information, scientists can reconstruct high-resolution "color" pictures of solar flares using computers back on the ground. This advanced approach will significantly enhance our current understanding of the solar flare phenomenon.
HESSI measures 85 inches (2.16 meters) high by 227 inches (5.76 meters) wide after solar panel deployment. During launch, the spacecraft's solar panels are folded to 43.3 inches (1.1 meters) in width to fit securely inside the Pegasus rocket fairing.
HESSI science objectives
Studying solar flares is important as they are often accompanied by coronal mass ejections, the eruption of gas and energetic particles from the Sun. The energetic particles are particularly dangerous to spacecraft that leave the protection of the Earth's magnetic field.
X-rays from flares also can alter the structure of the Earth's electrically charged upper atmosphere, or ionosphere, and adversely affect radio communications, which rely on reflection by the ionosphere for transmissions to distant receivers.
This mission will tell scientists where in the solar atmosphere these particles are accelerated, when in the flare explosion the particle acceleration occurs, and what energies are achieved by the accelerated particles. Data provided by HESSI will vastly advance our current understanding of the fundamental high-energy processes that produce solar flares.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Launch date: Feb. 5, 2002
Launch window: 3:21-5:21 p.m. EST (2021-2221 GMT)
Mission staging site: Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Launch timeline - Chart with the key events to occur during the launch.
Pegasus - Overview of the air-launched Orbital Sciences rocket.
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