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Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science

Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics-2 (TRICE-2)

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics-2 (TRICE-2)
We propose a re-flight of the Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics (TRICE) mission as the TRICE-2 mission. The original mission was quite successful in terms of an excellent range of scientific results presented at meetings, and in papers, but experienced some failures in the particle instruments which limited achievement of all of the science goals. These problems have since been rectified and flight-proven. The science of the mission remains highly relevant to NASA, in particular, to the upcoming MMS satellite mission. The TRICE-2 mission consists of a pair of almost identically instrumented scientific payloads launched from Andoya Rocket Range into the Earth's cusp region during a period when optical and radar data indicate that ionospheric signatures of reconnection are present. The two rockets will fly along very similar ground tracks, but one will fly to an apogee of approximately 500 km and the other will fly to an apogee of >1200 km. By launching the low-flying rocket 2-4 minutes after the high-flying rocket, we will achieve a variety of separations across magnetic field lines between the payloads in both the north-south and east-west directions. The payloads will also cross the same latitudes at different times. Due to the complexity of a two-rocket mission, we are planning for a four-year funding cycle with a launch in the November/December of 2018. The science goals are aimed at distinguishing between signatures of pulsed reconnection verse those of steady reconnection as well as investigating ionospheric cusp electrodynamics. By examining the evolution of stepped cusp ion dispersion along nearly identical field lines at a variety of different times, we will determine if the stepped forms have moved due to convection as predicted by pulsed reconnection models or if the steps are fixed in latitude as predicted by steady reconnection models. The comprehensive suite of measurements will allow a detailed study of the temporal and spatial evolution of the electrodynamics and particle precipitation in the cusp. We will address the physics of current closure, incident Poynting flux, Alfven wave occurrence, and high frequency waves. These measurements will be compared with simultaneous ground-based measurements from radar and imaging detectors to place them in the broader ionospheric context. The proposed pair of well-instrumented rockets will provide a wealth of new information on cusp ionosphere physics. These data will answer outstanding questions about the character of magnetopause reconnection and cusp electrodynamics. The study of magnetic reconnection is a central theme in the Heliophysics division. Indeed, the MMS mission to be launched next year will study the microphysics of reconnection making the TRICE-2 science goals of the macroscopic nature of reconnection complimentary to the MMS mission and of high relevance to NASA science. More »

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