The European Space Agency’s three-satellite Swarm constellation was lofted into a near-polar orbit on Nov. 22, 2013, from which it will monitor Earth’s magnetic field for the next four years.
The Swarm satellites will give researchers unprecedented insights into the complex workings of the magnetic shield that protects Earth’s biosphere from charged particles and cosmic radiation. The satellites’ precise measurements of the shield will help researchers evaluate its current weakening and understand how it contributes to global change.
All three satellites are controlled by ESA teams at the European Space Operation Centre, Darmstadt, Germany. During the next three months of commissioning, their scientific payloads will be verified, and they will move to their respective operational orbits. The lower pair will fly in formation side by side, about 150 km (10 seconds) apart at the equator and at an initial altitude of 460 km, while the upper satellite will rise to a higher orbit at 530 km.
Image courtesy of ESA/ATG Medialab.