NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Spacecraft Set for March Blastoff to study Earth’s Magnetic Reconnection Events

NASA’s first mission dedicated to study the process in nature known as magnetic reconnection undergoing final preparation for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in just under two weeks time.

The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission is comprised of a quartet of identically instrumented observatories aimed at providing the first three-dimensional views of a fundamental process in nature known as magnetic reconnection.

Magnetic reconnection is the process whereby magnetic fields around Earth connect and disconnect while explosively releasing vast amounts of energy. It occurs throughout the universe.

“Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important drivers of space weather events,” said Jeff Newmark, interim director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“Eruptive solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and geomagnetic storms all involve the release, through reconnection, of energy stored in magnetic fields. Space weather events can affect modern technological systems such as communications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids.”

The four MMS have been stacked on top of one another like pancakes, encapsulated in the payload fairing, transported to the launch pad, hoisted and mated to the top of the 195-foot-tall rocket.

NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) observatories are shown here in the clean room being processed for a March 12, 2015 launch from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky
NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) observatories are shown here in the clean room being processed for a March 12, 2015 launch from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The nighttime launch of MMS on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket should put on a spectacular sky show for local spectators along the Florida space coast as well as more distant located arcing out in all directions.

Liftoff is slated for 10:44 p.m. EDT Thursday March 12 from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The launch window extends for 30 minutes.

Artist rendition of the four MMS spacecraft in orbit in Earth’s magnetic field. Credit: NASA
Artist rendition of the four MMS spacecraft in orbit in Earth’s magnetic field. Credit: NASA

After a six month check out phase the probes will start science operation in September.

Unlike previous missions to observe the evidence of magnetic reconnection events, MMS will have sufficient resolution to measure the characteristics of ongoing reconnection events as they occur.

The four probes were built in-house by NASA at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland where is visited them during an inspection tour by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

I asked Bolden to explain the goals of MMS during a one-on-one interview.

“MMS will help us study the phenomena known as magnetic reconnection and help us understand how energy from the sun – magnetic and otherwise – affects our own life here on Earth,” Bolden told Universe Today.

“MMS will study what effects that process … and how the magnetosphere protects Earth.”

MMS measurements should lead to significant improvements in models for yielding better predictions of space weather and thereby the resulting impacts for life here on Earth as well as for humans aboard the ISS and robotic satellite explorers in orbit and the heavens beyond.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden poses with the agency’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft, mission personnel, Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese and NASA Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld, during visit to the cleanroom at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on May 12, 2014.  Credit: Ken Kremer-
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden poses with the agency’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft, mission personnel, Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese and NASA Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld, during visit to the cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on May 12, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer-

The best place to study magnetic reconnection is ‘in situ’ in Earth’s magnetosphere. This will lead to better predictions of space weather phenomena.

“This is the perfect time for this mission,” said Jim Burch, principal investigator of the MMS instrument suite science team at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas.

“MMS is a crucial next step in advancing the science of magnetic reconnection. Studying magnetic reconnection near Earth will unlock the ability to understand how this process works throughout the entire universe.”

Magnetic reconnection is also believed to help trigger the spectacular aurora known as the Northern or Southern lights.

MMS is a Solar Terrestrial Probes Program, or STP, mission within NASA’s Heliophysics Division.

Watch for Ken’s ongoing MMS coverage and he’ll be onsite at the Kennedy Space Center in the days leading up to the launch on March 12.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing MMS, Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer
Learn more about MMS, Mars rovers, Orion, SpaceX, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Mar 6: “MMS Update, Future of NASA Human Spaceflight, Curiosity on Mars,” Delaware Valley Astronomers Assoc (DVAA), Radnor, PA, 7 PM.

Mar 10-12: “MMS, Orion, SpaceX, Antares, Curiosity Explores Mars,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

20 Replies to “NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Spacecraft Set for March Blastoff to study Earth’s Magnetic Reconnection Events”

  1. This mission is due in part to the presentation made in 2009 by Donald Scott’s (The Electric Sky) to NASA at the Goddard Engineering Colloquia. Scott, an electrical engineer and publisher of the foremost textbooks in electrical engineering has applied his area of knowledge to the field of cosmology.
    One of the points he emphasized in his presentation to NASA was that magnetic “reconnection” does not occur. This point was also made by Nobel winning plasma physicist Hannes Alfvens. The reason the matter is significant is that the “reconnection” theorized by cosmologists is necessary to support the recent findings by the IBEX and Voyager missions. Without this “reconnection”, the standard model of the sun falls into serious question. Scott and other plasma physicists maintain that the model of nuclear fusion at the core of the sun is incorrect. The model has many failings but the main one is that there are inadequate conduction velocities to support the model. It is becoming more likely that the sun’s electromagnetic energy is a surface event, fueled by galactic electric currents (Birkeland currents). These currents generate enormous magnetic fields which are the focus of the MMS mission. The mission will shed more information regarding the electrical nature of the sun and it’s interactions with earth. NASA will be looking very closely at these results as they may cause a major paradigm shift in the field of cosmology today. This is long overdue.

    1. “MMS was ranked as the highest-priority moderate-size mission in National Research Council’s 2002 Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey.”- MMS-Smart Home Page

      How can that be if, as you claim, this mission is a panicked response to a speech held in 2009?

      There I go again, debunking your elaborate conspiracy theories with simple, easily verifiable, facts. Don’t you get tired of being wrong all the time?

      1. Your off the cuff comments debunk nothing are don’t even address the comments I made. Everything I stated is absolute fact. This should be a top priority mission as the findings may overturn the long held but never proven theory of nuclear fusion within the sun. Once the absence of “reconnection” is shown and given the inadequate conduction velocities, the standard model of nuclear fusion within the sun will be discarded.
        You should take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in clinging to the current “gospels” of today’s cosmology. In the end you can say “almost everyone else was wrong too” !
        Unless you educate yourself in plasma physics and electrical engineering, you will at least have a good reason for not believing or understanding what true pioneers of the field are discovering today.
        And that’s ok!!

      2. You claimed the mission was partly in response to a speech held in 2009, when actually it was already being planned in 2002. I don’t actually think NASA takes you guys that seriously.

        If the Sun is powered by electricity, as you claim, why does it produce so many neutrinos? Neutrinos are only produced by nuclear reactions, not by the electromagnetic force.

        It is possible that later observations in science will force scientists to abandon their current views. But any alternative model will need to explain not only that observation, but also be consistent with everything else in astronomy that’s already been discovered. This is where the Electric Universe idea falls flat. Your proponents assert that comets have a significant negative electric charge. However, comets also rotate, which means they should produce a substantial magnetic field but this is definitely NOT observed. You also have no explanation for solar neutrinos, cosmological redshift or the cosmic microwave background.

      3. The cosmic microwave studies were horribly flawed and the data was completely misinterpreted.
        The sun doesn’t produce neutrinos, they are part of the large Birkeland currents that connect the stars and the galaxies.
        Red shift is now being shown to be a product of age, not distance or velocity, by the recent observations from Chandra. See Halton Arp’s work (“Seeing Red”). These findings will invalidate both the big bang theory and the theory of inflation.
        Almost without exception, the multitude of contradictions and inconsistencies found in the standard model can be simply explained using EU models.
        There is an overwhelming amount of recent data from every mission NASA puts up that further validates EU models.
        These models make common sense, are consistent with observed phenomenon and do not require invisible, mathematical creations for their existence.
        When you take the time to listen to Scott’s presentation to NASA you will realize his positions are being taken very seriously.
        Change in long held theories will come slowly. People’s jobs and reputations are at stake. But the time will come when the data can’t be ignored or manipulated any longer and proper scientific method will return to cosmology. It has drifted far from this today, relying on mathematics to create reality. Math should be used to confirm observations, not the other way around.

      4. Rubbish. Firstly, neutrinos do not experience electrical forces, so they cannot be channelled along your fictitious Birkeland currents. Secondly, even if they did, there should be a 365 day periodicity in their arrival direction. That is, if they seem to be coming from the Sun in January, they should seem to be going toward the Sun in July when the Earth is on the other side. But they always come from the direction of the Sun, so your idea is wrong.

        It’s become obvious that you don’t actually know anything about electromagnetism.

      5. btraymd the only reason why you believe this EU is because you lack basic physics. Instead of wasting your time on these crazy EU sites, take a physics book and learn the formula’s.

        Then next step use these formulas to calculate basic EU claims. Observe how it falls flat on its face.

        The biggest clue that EU is impossible is because 2 same charges repel each other, making impossible for any object to keep a big charge.

        Reality is that the EU proponents just typed in “plasma” into google and then combined the search results including the crazy bits into something that “sounds” logical but in reality is just pure garbage.

  2. There are probably many people who read this site and others like it who want to know all about spec, and the starts, and stuff, but may not know enough to decide what is true and what is not.

    I think the best guide is how they behave. If you believed that the best minds of your generation were mistaken on some point of science, you would want to persuade those minds with the force of your argument. You might write to the journals that they would read. You would not spend your time vandalising amateur astronomy websites.

    Real ‘rebel’ scientists are pretty rare. If you are going to come up with something, then there is usually someone else who did the experiments that gave you the idea, someone else who designed the apparatus that you used, someone else who is doing almost the same thing that, and so on.

    Internet trolls, on the other hand, are two a penny. I have really no idea what kick you can possibly get out of posting stuff like that, but they seem to like it.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Kirk!
      And Mewo, I gotta love ya! I am an engineer and a physicist but you keep your cool and respond to the EU proponents much better than I could.
      Thank you, mewo!

  3. I find it amusing (but all too commonplace) that when faced with overwhelming information which contradicts one’s belief system (and that’s what today’s “standard model” of cosmology is), people begin with personal attacks and dismissive comments (“rubbish”).
    I understand that you can’t really argue with 95% of the comments I have made (solar conduction velocities, red shift data, etc) . So at least take some solace that perhaps there may be the issue of neutrinos upon which I am not 100% correct. This is a trivial matter in comparison to the huge problems facing the theory of nuclear fusion within the sun.
    Y’all keep your heads in the sand.
    Did you like Donald Scott’s presentation to NASA? Probably too afraid to watch it. I don’ think NASA felt it was a waste of time, even though someone like yourself might feel that way.
    Casting dispersions on the theories from Nobel prize winners like Hannes Alfvens and dismissing them as not worthy of comment is typical behavior from people who just can’t admit the possibility that they are wrong. Given the current shambles in which cosmology finds itself today, that is hard to understand.
    Nothing from the EU models has been disproven and there seems to be little if any proof for the standard models.
    Despite your lack of interest (and understanding) the electric models of cosmology will continue to be validated by radio telescope data until they are finally accepted by “mainstream” scientists.

    1. You claim the cosmic microwave background experiments were flawed and misinterpreted, but you don’t explain what was wrong with them. That doesn’t give me a lot to go on, and what you can assert without evidence I can dismiss without evidence. Your claim that redshift increases with age doesn’t work because it requires that individual spectral lines belonging to different atoms and molecules get redshifted, not just the overall continuum.

      Your tactic seems to be to bombard your listeners with a long list of baseless assertions and then proclaim victory when someone doesn’t address every single one. Proof by filibuster is not a recognized method. Meanwhile, your response to the rebuttals you do get are essentially “I don’t care! I’m still right! LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”

      As for Nobel Prize winner Hannes Alfven, I’m not sure I’ve even referred to him before now. Just because he won a Nobel Prize does not make him infallible, nor does it prevent cranks and conspiracy theorists from latching on to his work and misinterpreting it for their own ends. If we’re going down the “appeal to authority” route, I could point to Nobel Prize winners like Brian Schmidt, who won his medal for the discovery that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.

      I also think it’s hypocritical of you to accuse me of personal attacks, when your posts are full of condescending remarks like “Keep your heads in the sand” and “I guess science just isn’t for you”, and accusations of fraud on the part of scientists.

      Ultimately, though, the real point is that nobody needs to listen to lectures on electricity from someone whose knowledge of the basics of electromagnetism is seemingly nonexistent. You don’t even seem to comprehend that a rotating charged object produces a magnetic field. This is like going to a lecture on algebraic geometry and finding out the speaker doesn’t know the difference between a circle and a square.

    2. – “Nothing from the EU models has been disproven and there seems to be little if any proof for the standard models.”

      Oh come one. A wall of text is with intelligent sounding words are not going to proof that EU is right.

      Moving charges in space DOES NOT equate moving charges in your home. In your electrical wiring, ONLY the electrons move, your copper wire does not move. In “space” BOTH the negative and positive ions move CANCELLING each other out.

      When an object in space gets too much charge, then the same charge will repel each other beyond escape velocity in all directions until there is so little charged left that gravity can hold on to. No object in space can stay charged, it loses it fast. The nature that + repels + and – repels – prevents EU to be even remotely true. And the same is the nature that + cancels – and – cancels +.

      And to get it even worse, assume that you have a neutral charged object and some process rip’s of all + ions from that object. That neutral object lost so much charge that it is going to pull back the lost + ions. And if it can’t, then it will eject all – ions because it has become too negatively charged and they get repelled from that object. Gravity simply cannot hold on to the negative ions anymore, because it is too weak.

      The universe simply does not like charged objects. If something gets charged then the universe will try anything to lose that excess charge and become neutral again in the shortest possible time.

  4. This is better than Coronation Street 🙂 and the only True EU is the European Union . LOL ………

  5. I assure you I am not “spamming” the site. I have a B.S. in Biology from Washington and Lee U. and received an M.D. from the U.of Md. in 1988. I have taken advanced calculus and topography as well as 2 years of college physics. I am certainly no expert but have an educated opinion. I am board certified in Ob-Gyn but I have had a real interest in astronomy and cosmology since the mid 80’s. I have followed Hawking’s and Susskind’s work religiously for the last 30 years.
    What has troubled me throughout is their use of mathematics to “create reality”. As new observations were made with advances in technology, contradictions to their theories continued to arise. They would go back to the chalkboard and out would come a new “reality”.
    The list of unconfirmed theories is long and quite spectacular. From black holes, to dark matter/energy, to neutron stars and the latest, accretion discs. There are two things these theories have in common: (1) They cannot be observed or confirmed and (2) They were necessary because gravity does not have sufficient force to cause the observed effects. Despite the failure to prove these concepts, they continue to use them to build new theories. It seems like a house of cards and now with the newest radio telescope (Chandra, Planck, etc) it seems ready to fall.
    All I’m saying is that there is a viable alternative that makes more sense and is receiving support from the latest radio telescope data. There is also some experimental validation coming from the laboratories of plasma physicists.
    It seems reasonable to investigate these electric models further. Donald Scott’s presentation to NASA in 2009 gives sound evidence for this course of action. The “Primer Fields” is a six part series that revealed some eye opening research by plasma physicists working with magnetism. Their explanations given for recent radio telescope observation of nebulae and quasars was convincing. It made more sense than anything I have heard so far.
    It has become increasingly apparent to me that the correct course of action is to listen to these electrical engineers and plasma physicists when interpreting the data from the MMS mission as well as other radio telescope data. Both Alfvens and Scott have stated in no uncertain terms that “magnetic reconnection” cannot occur. This being their field of expertise, I tend to believe them. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

      1. LOL……This does nothing to “shoot down” EU theory. It is an interesting paper that makes some important observations. I will be interested to see how plasma physicists interpret the findings. It is clearly beyond my ability to comment.
        Their descriptions of the sun do appear to be getting closer to the truth however. It is obviously an electrical body from their descriptions. The lack of adequate convection velocities still creates a seemingly insurmountable obstacle (along with many others) for the model of nuclear fusion at the core.
        The magnetic reconnection theory was proposed to salvage the nuclear fusion model. It does nothing to either support or refute the electrical models of cosmology.

      2. Also you can read about how plasma physicists are studying magnetic reconnection *in a laboratory*:

        Yes, you read that right. Magnetic reconnection recreated in a laboratory by plasma physicists! Hannes Alfven is dead, so can’t appreciate new research being done since his passing. Don Scott is a know-nothing EE, not a plasma physicist. Maybe he should take a trip to the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and talk with living plasma physicists who study this stuff. This being their field of expertise and all.

  6. Nice. Thank you. I’m not sure if they have proven magnetic reconnection but at least they are directing their line of inquiry in the right direction. The fruits of their labors with electromagnetism will surely shed more light on the true nature of the sun and stars in general.

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