Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Susan Hendrix
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-7745)

RELEASE: 00-40

NASA is about to launch the first spacecraft dedicated to
imaging the Earth’s magnetosphere — an invisible magnetic field
surrounding the planet that is strongly influenced by the solar

A Delta II 7326 rocket is scheduled to launch the Imager for
Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE, satellite into
orbit March 25 from the Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base,
CA. The eight-minute launch window for IMAGE opens at 3:35 p.m.
EST (12:35 p.m. PST).

IMAGE is the first of its kind, designed to actually “see”
most of the major charged-particle systems in the space surrounding
Earth. Previous spacecraft explored the magnetosphere by detecting
particles and fields they encountered as they passed through them.
This technique limited their “vision” to small portions of this
vast and dynamic field, which extends about 40,000 miles on Earth’s
day side and about 110,000 miles on Earth’s night side. It would
be similar to attempt understanding the nature of the world’s
oceans from a single buoy.

Just as taking a photograph of the night sky allows astronomers
to count and study millions of stars at once, images returned by
the IMAGE spacecraft will provide simultaneous measurements of the
densities, energies and masses of charged particles throughout the
inner magnetosphere using three-dimensional imaging techniques.

“IMAGE brings to space weather studies the kind of capability
that geosynchronous weather satellites have brought to surface
meteorology,” said Dr. Thomas Moore, IMAGE Project Scientist at
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. “We may soon be
treated to evening news images of plasma clouds engulfing those
weather satellites.”

During its two-year mission, the half-ton IMAGE spacecraft
will image remote particle populations in the magnetosphere. These
“photographs” will then be linked together to make movies in real
time. Their rapid two-minute cadence will allow detailed study of
the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere and the
magnetosphere’s response during a magnetic storm, which typically
lasts a few days.

“In addition to stored data, IMAGE will implement a real-time
down link that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
intends to use for space weather forecasting,” said Principal
Investigator Dr. James Burch of the Southwest Research Institute
(SwRI), San Antonio, TX.

To fulfill its science goals, IMAGE will employ six state-of-
the-art instruments along with a data processor. The instruments
and their developers are:

* High Energy Neutral Atom (HENA) imager, developed by Johns
Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD
* Medium Energy Neutral Atom (MENA) imager, developed by SwRI
* Low Energy Neutral Atom (LENA) imager, developed by Goddard
* Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) imager, developed by the University
of Arizona, Tucson
* Far Ultraviolet (FUV) imager, developed by the University of
California at Berkeley
* Radio Plasma Imager (RPI), developed by the University of
Massachusetts at Lowell
* Central Instrument Data Processor (CIDP) developed by SwRI

IMAGE is the first of two Medium-class Explorer missions NASA
has scheduled for launch. The total cost of the mission, including
spacecraft, launch vehicle and mission operations for the first two
years is about $154 million. The IMAGE Project Office at Goddard
will manage the mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science in
Washington, DC, while the principal investigator at SwRI has
overall responsibility for the science, instrumentation, spacecraft
and data analyses.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space of Sunnyvale, Calif. built
the IMAGE spacecraft — which measures 7.38 feet in diameter and
4.99 feet high — under contract with SwRI. On orbit, the RPI
antennas aboard IMAGE will extend 33 feet parallel to the spin axis
and 820 feet in four directions perpendicular to the spin axis,
making IMAGE the longest spacecraft currently on orbit. The IMAGE
mission press kit is available at:

More information about the IMAGE mission can be found at: