A European research satellite designed to study the Earth's magnetic field was launched on Monday (31 January) at the Vandenberg Airforce Bases in California.
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Background: A European research satellite designed to study the Earth's magnetic field was launched on Monday (31 January) at the Vandenberg Airforce Bases in California.
The satellite, named HEOS (Highly Eccentric Orbit Satellite), was built by the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) and launched aboard a three-stage Delta rocket by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The rocket successfully thrust the spacecraft into its unusual orbit around the north and south poles. The height of the orbit varies between a mere 253 miles (409 km) and 151,995 miles (245,150 km).
The strange orbit -- like an enormously elongated egg - is designed to gain maximum information about the magnetosphere, the huge tear-shaped envelope surrounding the earth and formed by the solar wind "blowing" on the earth's magnetic field.