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Ariane 6's Maiden launch to deploy Radio Interferometry Experiment for NASA
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Ariane 6's Maiden launch to deploy Radio Interferometry Experiment for NASA
by Erica Marchand
Paris, France (SPX) Apr 03, 2024

Europe is poised to launch its newest rocket, Ariane 6, marking a significant advancement in space mission versatility. This inaugural flight is set to carry a diverse array of missions, each with its distinct objective, ranging from Earth observation to deep space exploration and technological experimentation in orbit. Ariane 6 exemplifies the evolution of heavy-lift launchers, demonstrating unmatched flexibility and capability.

Among the payloads is NASA's CUbesat Radio Interferometry Experiment (CURIE), a mission designed to measure radio emissions from the Sun and celestial bodies. Earth's ionosphere, which absorbs these radio waves, necessitates their measurement in space. CURIE, comprising two CubeSats launching as a unified entity and later separating, employs radio interferometry to pinpoint the origins of these emissions simultaneously from dual locations in space.

CURIE's primary goal is to analyze radio bursts from solar activities like flares and coronal mass ejections, which influence space weather affecting Earth and other celestial bodies. By determining the source regions of these radio bursts and tracking their movement, CURIE aims to enhance our understanding of heliospheric space weather and its planetary impacts.

This mission introduces the first space-based radio interferometry observatory capable of capturing frequencies ranging from 0.1 to 19 MHz. CURIE will be key to pioneering space-based radio observation techniques, that are crucial for comprehending the heliospheric environment and the solar system's dynamics.

The mission also underscores the feasibility of deploying dedicated space-based interferometers using cost-effective CubeSats, a significant stride towards advanced space observation technologies.

Ariane 6, succeeding the Ariane 5, is set for its debut launch between June and July 2024. With a legacy of over a quarter century and 117 successful launches, Ariane 5 has been a cornerstone of European space exploration. Ariane 6, with its innovative restartable Vinci engine, introduces unparalleled mission adaptability, capable of delivering payloads into any required orbit and ensuring efficient deorbiting or repositioning strategies.

CURIE is slated for a near-Earth circular orbit at an altitude of 580 km, strategically positioned beyond the ionosphere's radio-interference zone. David Sundkvist, the mission's principal investigator, expressed the team's enthusiasm for participating in Ariane 6's maiden flight, highlighting the significance of this launch for pioneering satellite development and space exploration initiatives.

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