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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA's Space Technology 5 Satellites Soar Into Space

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Jim Slavin , ST5 project scientist at Goddard said, "The lessons learnedfrom the development and flight of ST5's three full-service micro-spacecraft constitute a major step toward the use of constellations or swarms of small spacecraft to accomplish science that cannot be done with a single spacecraft, no matter how capable."

Although small compared to their counter parts, each of the spacecraft is considered full service. They contain power, propulsion, communications, guidance, navigation and control functions found in larger spacecraft.

The spacecrafts' orbit is a "string of pearls," in a near-Earth polar elliptical that will take them from approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles)to 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) from the planet.

They start out only a few meters apart. Within approximately 20 days, they are placed into a formation 40 to 200 km (approximately 25 to 125 miles) apartfrom each other to perform coordinated multi-point measurements of the Earth's magnetic field. This type of measurement is useful for future missions that will study the effect of solar activity on the Earth's magnetosphere; themagnetic bubble that surrounds Earth and helps to protect it from harmful space radiation.

The ST5 project was built and tested at Goddard for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. It is an instrumental part of the New Millennium Program, whichdevelops and tests critical and revolutionary technologies needed to enable future endeavors in space.


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