Skip to Main Content

NASA’s Next Science Mission: Radiation Belt Storm Probes

RBSP mission graphic

Launch August 30, 2012
Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, Florida

The second mission of the Living With a Star program, together with the first, Solar Dynamics Observatory, will develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected Sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society.

The radiation belts are 2 donut shaped regions encircling Earth, where high-energy particles, mostly electrons and ions, are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. The radiation belts were the first discovery of the Space Age (1958) and are named after their discoverer, James Van Allen.

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission, will provide unprecedented insight into the physical dynamics of the radiation belts and give scientists the data they need to make predictions of changes in this critical region of space. RBSP satellite

Beginning in 2012, two spacecraft will orbit the Earth, sampling the harsh radiation belt environment where major space weather activity occurs and many spacecraft operate.

The two spacecraft will measure the particles, magnetic and electric fields, and waves that fill geospace. Only with two spacecraft taking identical measurements and following the same path, can scientists begin to understand how the belts change in both space and time.

Space weather can affect the performance and reliability of our technologies, and pose a threat to astronauts and spacecraft. RBSP will measure one aspect of space weather, charged particles that can damage satellites or astronauts in space. RBSP satellites will broadcast space weather data nearly 24/7 that will be received by ground stations in the US and around the world. Data is available within minutes.

ScienceCasts: The Radiation Belt Storm Probes
ScienceCasts: The Radiation Belt Storm Probes
Watch the latest video in NASA Science's ScienceCasts series, The Radiation Belt Storm Probes



Energetic Particle
Composition and
Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT)

Helium Oxygen Proton Electron Spectrometer (HOPE)
Magnetic Electron Ion Spectrometer (MagEIS)
Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT)
H. Spence
Electric and Magnetic
Field Instrument Suite
and Integrated Science
Low-Frequency Magnetometer (MAG)
High-Frequency Magnetometer and Waveform Receiver
C. Kletzing
University of Iowa
Electric Field and Waves
Instrument for the NASA
RBSP Mission (EFW)
Electric Field Waves Instrument for the NASA RBSP
Mission (EFW)
J. Wygant
University of Minnesota
Radiation Belt Storm
Probes Ion Composition
Experiment (RBSPICE)
Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition
Experiment (RBSPICE)
L. Lanzerotti
New Jersey Institute of
Proton Spectrometer
Belt Research (PSBR)
Relativistic Proton Spectrometer (RPS) D. Byers