NASA selects future space “weather missions”

The US space agency has presented a list of five missions to study the solar wind and magnetism, two of which will soon be approved for implementation.

NASA has released a list of projects for the study of near-Earth space that have become contenders for implementation in the Medium-Class Explorer class. Five “semifinalists” will receive $1.25 million each and nine months for further refinement, after which two options will be selected for implementation and launch into orbit. This is described in a message distributed by the space agency.

The main object of study for all projects will be “space weather” – the influence of solar activity on the near-earth space, atmosphere, and magnetic field of our planet. The winning options will receive an additional 250 million for finalization. “Each of the proposals provides an opportunity to observe something that we have not seen before, or it promises to strongly advance our knowledge in key directions”, says NASA Scientific Director Thomas Zurbuchen, “all for further exploration of the Universe in which we live”.

STORM: near-earth “weather”

Project by David Sibeck of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Aimed at creating a powerful system for monitoring solar wind streams and its interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere. It implies the use of a set of ground and space observation instruments.

HelioSwarm: solar wind

Observing the solar wind with a fleet of nine SmallSat satellites to obtain a 3D picture of turbulent particle flows. The work will make it possible to better understand their dynamics and processes leading to the heating of this plasma in motion. Project by Harlan Spence of the University of New Hampshire.

MUSE: solar corona

The study of the solar corona and the processes that lead to the appearance of flares and mass ejections, as well as to anomalous heating, due to which its temperature is much higher than in the deeper layers of the star. It is expected that the apparatus will be able to conduct observations with a spatial resolution 10 times better than previous spectrographs and with a temporal resolution 100 times higher. Project by Bart De Pontieu of Lockheed Martin.