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Lori J. Rachul
NASA Lewis Research Center

Nasa Lewis to oversee launch of the International Solar and Heliospheric Observatory

CLEVELAND, OH -- NASA Lewis Research Center will oversee the launch of the internationally designed and fabricated Solar and Heliospheric Observatory SOHO scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on November 23. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. SOHO, which carries a complement of 12 experiments, will study the structure of the Sun's interior and the generation of solar wind to provide a better understanding of the Sun and its importance to life on Earth.

"Lewis' long tradition of expertise managing launch services and expendable launch vehicles traces back to the early 1960s," said SOHO Launch Manager Gary Sagerman. "Back then, Lewis had a large team of people responsible for the design and integration of the total launch vehicle, as well as overall responsibility for the success of the launch." Sagerman said that although launch service is now purchased "commercially" and the Lewis role in design and fabrication has evolved into one of oversight, Lewis' Launch Vehicle Project Office still feels responsible for ensuring a successful launch.

SOHO will be launched on an Atlas IIAS rocket. Lockheed-Martin, Denver, under contract with Lewis, is providing the launch vehicle and launch services for SOHO.

Developed by a consortium of international partners, including NASA, the project's key objective--to provide a clearer understanding of the interactions between the Sun and the Earth's environment--will yield data enabling scientists to solve some of the most perplexing riddles about the Sun.

During its two-year mission, SOHO will have a superlative and uninterrupted view of the Sun from a circular orbit around a point known as the "L-1 Lagrangian point" approximately 930,000 miles from Earth, where the gravitational forces of the Earth and Sun balance one another. From this position, the spacecraft will investigate the interior dynamics that produce energy flow and magnetic field structures at the base of the solar corona. Studies will link the internal structure of the Sun with its extensive outer atmosphere, and the origin of the solar wind--the stream of highly ionized gas that blows continuously through the Solar System. Measurements of variation in the Sun's total brightness will also be conducted.

Research will be performed using 12 experiments that were developed by an international team of scientists and engineers from the United States and Europe.

The Global Oscillations at Low Frequencies (GOLF) and the Variability of Irradiance and Gravity Oscillations (VIRGO) experiments will probe the internal core structure of the Sun and its irradiance and radiance by measuring the spectrum of free global isolations. The Michelson Doppler Imager/Solar Oscillations Imager (MDI/SOI) will measure oscillations on the Sun's surface to gather information about the outer layer of the Sun's interior.

The Solar Ultraviolet Measurements of Emitted Radiation (SUMER), the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS), the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), the Ultraviolet Coronagraph Spectrometer (UVCS), and the White Light and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) experiments constitute a combination of telescopes, spectrometers, and coronagraphs that will observe the hot atmosphere of the Sun known as the corona. SUMER, CDS, and EIT will observe the inner corona, while UVCS and LASCO will observe the outer corona. They will obtain measurements of the temperature, density, composition, and velocity of the corona.

The Charge, Element, and Isotope Analysis System (CELIAS) the Comprehensive Suprathermal and Energetic Particle Analyzer (COSTEP) and the Energetic and Relativistic Nuclei and Electron Experiment (ERNE) will analyze the charge state and isotopic composition of ions in the solar wind, and the charge and isotopic composition of energetic particles generated by the Sun. The Study of Solar Wind Anisotrophies experiment uses telescopes to measure the large scale structure of the solar wind streams.

In addition to contributing three experiments--MDI/SOI, UVCS, and LASCO--NASA is responsible for the collection and dissemination of SOHO science data through NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Deep Space Network at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ESA is responsible for managing the overall program.

SOHO is part of a larger effort known as the International Solar- Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) science initiative. ISTP aims, through coordinated exploration of the space regions neighboring Earth, to understand the behavior of the solar-terrestrial system and, therefore, the way in which the Earth's atmosphere responds to changes in the solar wind.

"Scientists around the world are confident that SOHO will provide new insight about the Sun and its direct bearing on our lives. Lewis' role in this important program underscores the Center's support and commitment to cutting edge space missions," Sagerman said.

SOHO will receive final testing and preparation for launch in the Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility at KSC. There, several processing activities will be performed on the payload module to prepare the science instruments for launch.

Fifteen Lewis launch management experts, including Sagerman, will be on hand at the Florida launch site to oversee launch activities.

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