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45th Space Wing supports NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale mission

The 45th Space Wing supported the successful launch of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission that launched aboard an Atlas V rocket March 12, 2015, at 10:44 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission will use four identical spacecraft, variably spaced in Earth orbit, to make 3-D measurements of magnetospheric boundary regions and examine the process of magnetic reconnection. (Courtesy Photo/United Launch Alliance)

The 45th Space Wing supported the successful launch of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission that launched aboard an Atlas V rocket March 12, 2015, at 10:44 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission will use four identical spacecraft, variably spaced in Earth orbit, to make 3-D measurements of magnetospheric boundary regions and examine the process of magnetic reconnection. (Courtesy Photo/United Launch Alliance)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. --  The 45th Space Wing supported  NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission that launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Wednesday at 10:44 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 41 here.

A combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 45th Space Wing provided support to the mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety and public affairs.

MMS consists of four identical spacecraft that will orbit around Earth through the dynamic magnetic system surrounding our planet to study a little-understood phenomenon called magnetic reconnection.

The MMS spacecraft were developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The four observatories were built, tested and integrated nearly simultaneously.

Magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon unique to plasma, that is, the mix of positively and negatively charged particles that make up the stars, fill space, and account for an estimated 99% of the observable universe, according to NASA.

MMS will travel directly through areas near Earth known to be magnetic reconnection sites. On the sun-side of Earth, reconnection can link the sun's magnetic field lines to Earth's magnetic field lines, allowing material and energy from the sun to funnel into Earth's magnetic environment. On the night side of Earth, reconnection is believed to help trigger aurora, also known as the Northern or Southern lights.

Reconnection occurs when magnetic field lines cross and release a gigantic burst of energy. It is a fundamental process throughout the universe that taps energy stored in magnetic fields and converts it into heat and energy in the form of charged particle acceleration and large-scale flows of matter, according to NASA.

Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander, who also served as the mission's Launch Decision Authority, praised all who worked so hard to make this mission successful.

"This is the second of four launches we have on our manifest for this month, and it's always awe-inspiring to see a rocket successfully launched from the Eastern Range," said Gen. Armagno.

"But it's equally satisfying to see all the behind-the-scenes hard work and long hours NASA, 'Team Patrick-Cape' and our mission partners put in to make this mission successful," she said.

"I am proud we continue to do serious heavy lifting necessary to ensure 100% mission success - our No. 1 priority -- and I'm so honored to be part of this world-class team," she said.