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Hopkins Scientists Create Crafts That Predict Space Weather; Launch Set For Friday

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RBSP, space weather, solar storm
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Gigi Barnett anchors the Weekend Morning Edition with Meteorologist...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Storms, wind and heat flares. They’re the weather conditions Johns Hopkins scientists see in space. Now they have a new spacecraft to watch and it launches this week from Cape Canaveral.

Gigi Barnett has a closer look at how the storms in space affect us on Earth.

Without warning, weather on Earth can be deadly. And weather in space is just as destructive.

Powerful solar storms and winds can knock out satellites that support cell phones, GPS systems and electrical grids on Earth.

“We needed to understand better what this space weather was all about,” said Dr. Rob Gold, Johns Hopkins chief scientist.

Especially in the region called the radiation belts. They are rings of intense radiation trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field, which change dramatically during solar events.

But now a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab have created these dual spacecrafts to watch and predict space weather.

They’re called radiation-belt storm probes — or RBSP for short.

Gold says two spacecrafts are needed to make one system.

“If you have two, you can tell the difference between something that pops up everywhere or something that moved from one to the other,” Gold said.

RBSP is on a two-year mission, starting at 4:07 a.m. Friday when NASA launches it from Cape Canaveral.

And it has the mettle to weather the space storms.

“RBSP is designed to handle the intense radiation that you have in the radiation belts. Normal spacecrafts would die in just a day or two,” Gold said.

More than 300 people worked on RBSP over the last four years. Scientists at Hopkins say the next step is building a spacecraft that will monitor solar winds and solar flares on the sun.

The dual RBSP crafts are the 67th and 68th spacecrafts developed by Johns Hopkins scientists.

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