Iowa Board of Regents

NASA touches down in Iowa to talk TRACERS

Two people shaking hands.

NASA delegates visited the University of Iowa on March 7-8 to learn about the largest externally funded research project in institutional history.

The NASA group included Joseph Westlake, the new head of the agency’s heliophysics division, which oversees missions involving the Earth and sun. The heliophysics portfolio includes Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS), the $115 million mission being led by Iowa. TRACERS will study interactions between the sun and the Earth that spawn the Northern and Southern lights. Researchers at Iowa and other participating institutions have been designing, building, and assembling the instruments, hardware, and software in preparation for a scheduled launch in April 2025. 

The UI scientists, including David Miles, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and TRACERS principal investigator, gave a progress report about the five instruments that will determine how powerful winds from the sun are able to cleave through the Earth’s magnetic field and potentially affect satellites, telecommunications, and energy grids.

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