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Center Innovation Fund: JPL CIF

Cubesat Constellations for Heliophysics

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Cubesat Constellations for Heliophysics

The workshop will identify the scientific investigations enabled by a flotilla of small instruments in Earth-trailing and Earth-leading orbits. It will outline a mission concept and the technology challenges of the instruments and spacecraft systems necessary to conduct these investigations. This new approach, a flotilla of simple instruments, could help NASA develop a new approach to heliophysics research.

What causes the Sun to vary? The Sun gives off magnetic fields, bulk plasma (the solar wind) and energetic particles moving up to nearly the speed of light, and all of these vary spatially and temporally. The three dimensional structure of solar wind turbulence, coronal mass ejections (CME) and magnetic clouds can only be understood with concurrent, multipoint measurements. Rapid advancements in CubeSat technology and the NASA OCT funding of Interplanetary CubeSats has opened the possibility of developing a flotilla of tiny spacecraft carrying magnetometers or simple plasma instruments to conduct these investigations. CubeSats are already demonstrating their cost effectiveness in Earth orbit. Heliophysics is a particularly fruitful field for extension of CubeSats to interplanetary constellations because many scientific investigations can only be accomplished with concurrent, spatially distributed measurements and the fields and particles instrumentation may fit within CubeSat volume constraints. While many CubeSat subsystems developed for Earth orbit are directly applicable to interplanetary mission, many subsystems will have to be totally redesigned to meet the requirements of deep space missions. This workshop will identify the scientific investigations enabled by a flotilla of small instruments in Earth-trailing and Earth-leading orbits. It will outline a mission concept and the technology challenges of the instruments and spacecraft systems necessary to conduct these investigations. This new approach, a flotilla of simple instruments, could help NASA develop a new approach to heliophysics research.

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.

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