NASA’s MMS mission sets Guinness world record

NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission  has set the Guinness world record for highest altitude fix of a Global Positioning System (GPS) signal.
The four MMS satellites operating in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth has set the record at 70,006.4 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.

About Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission

  • NASA’s MMS mission is an unmanned space mission to study the Earth’s magnetosphere, using four identical satellites flying in a tetrahedral or pyramid formation.
  • Objectives: The mission launched in March 2015 aims to map magnetic reconnection, a process that occurs as the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields interact.
  • Understanding causes of magnetic reconnection is important for understanding phenomena of auroras on Earth, flares on surface of sun, and areas surrounding black holes.
  • The mission is also designed to gather information about the microphysics of energetic particle acceleration and turbulence, processes that occur in many astrophysical plasmas.
  • Significance: When these satellites are closest to Earth, they move at up to 35,405 km/hour, making them the fastest known operational use of a GPS receiver.
  • These satellites operate in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth and incorporate GPS measurements into their precise tracking systems.
  • This system which require extremely sensitive position and orbit calculations to guide tight flying formations.
  • Achievements: Earlier in 2016, MMS had achieved the closest flying separation of a multi-spacecraft formation with only 7.2 km between the four satellites.
  • The mission still in the first year of its prime mission is giving scientists new insight into Earth’s magnetosphere.

What is magnetosphere?
Magnetosphere is the region of space surrounding an astronomical object in which charged particles are controlled by that object’s magnetic field. The magnetic field near the surface of many astronomical objects resembles that of a dipole. The field lines of the magnetic field significantly distort the flow of electrically conducting plasma emitted from a nearby star (e.g. In case of Earth, the solar wind from the Sun).