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Watch NASA briefing on mission that carries KTH instruments

The four MMS spacescraft, equipped with instruments designed by KTH scientists, are put on display last week for journalists prior to encapsulation at Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. (Photo: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

Streaming on the NASA website at 3 p.m. EST today, you can watch scientists with the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission hold a briefing about the upcoming March 12 launch, which will send four spacecraft equipped with instruments designed at KTH into Earth’s orbit.

Each of the four NASA satellites will carry four of the sensors created by KTH, which will extend from the spacecraft on 60 m long retractable wires, housed in the titanium nitride coated spherical casing, which gives them their golden hue. A prototype of the wire boom system, which resembles a fishing reel, was engineered at KTH. (Photo: Håkan Lindgren)

The mission is to study magnetic reconnection around the Earth, a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe where magnetic fields connect and disconnect explosively releasing energy.

Meanwhile, two of the KTH scientists involved in the mission, Göran Marklund and Per-Arne Lindqvist, are preparing to travel to Cape Canaveral for the launch. They and their team have dedicated the working-hour equivalent of 10 years to constructing instruments and power supplies that will enable four satellites to take ultra-high resolution measurements of the ion and electron distributions and electric and magnetic fields within cosmic plasma flows.

So, what’s it like to for a European scientist to be involved in a major NASA space mission?  We’ll keep you up to date with the mission from their perspective over the next few weeks, and even further on when Per-Arne travels to Boulder, Colorado for the commissioning of the equipment (a rather lengthy process spanning weeks).

The project will help scientists understand the process of magnetic reconnection, which can accelerate particles up to nearly the speed of light.  By studying reconnection near Earth, MMS will help scientists understand reconnection in the atmosphere of the sun and other stars, in the vicinity of black holes and neutron stars, and at the boundary between our solar system’s heliosphere and interstellar space.

The mission consists of four identical spacecraft that will provide the first three-dimensional view of magnetic reconnection. Launch is scheduled for 10:44 p.m. (that’s 3:44 a.m. for those of us in the CET timezone) March 12, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Here’s who’s participating in the brief:

  • Jeff Newmark, interim director, Heliophysics Division, NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Jim Burch, principal investigator, MMS Instrument Suite, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio
  • Craig Tooley, MMS Project Manager, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Paul Cassak, associate professor, West Virginia University, Morgantown

For more information about the MMS mission, visit:

or contact or (but trust me, they’re a bit busy right now – so allow them some time to reply!)

Want to know more about Space research here at KTH? Here are some links:

Space and Fusion Plasma

Space and Plasma Physics

New centre to be hub for space research

David Callahan is editor for international news and media at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.