Since its launch in 2001, NASAís TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) spacecraft, built and operated by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has been exploring one of Earthís last atmospheric frontiers, collecting valuable data during various phases of the solar cycle. The TIMED community will now have the opportunity to further its studies of Earthís atmosphere when the mission begins an extended campaign in October 2006 with operations and data analysis continuing through 2010.
The next phase of the mission will investigate the response of Earthís middle and upper atmosphere (the Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere/Ionosphere, or MLTI) to solar and geomagnetic phenomena not previously separated during the last solar cycle. For the first time, TIMED scientists will obtain long-term measurements of the sunís activities and effects on the MLTI region. This will enable scientists to better understand this atmospheric regionís variability and its effects on communications, satellite tracking, spacecraft lifetimes, degradation of spacecraft materials, and on the re-entry of piloted vehicles.