The Solar Isotope Spectrometer provides isotopically resolved measurements of the elements from lithium to zinc over the energy range 10 - 100 MeV/nucleon. The SIS dectector system consists of two identical telescopes composed of stacks of large-area solid-state detectors.
CINDI involves two instruments on the C/NOFS satellite that measure the concentration and kinetic energy of the ions and neutral particles in space as the satellite passes through them. This information will be used in building models to understand the various structures in the ionosphere, such as plasma depletions and associated turbulence in the nightside, low-latitude ionosphere. These structures can interfere with radio signals between Earth and spacecraft in orbit, thus causing errors in tracking and loss of communication.
VEFI measures direct current (DC) electric fields, which cause the bulk plasma motion that drives the ionospheric plasma to be unstable. Additionally, it measures the quasi-DC electric fields within the plasma density depletions to reveal the motions of the depletions relative to the background ionosphere. VEFI also measures the vector AC electric field, which characterizes the ionospheric disturbances associated with spread-F irregularities.
The NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Cluster mission was the first to deploy four identical spacecraft flying in formation to conduct three-dimensional studies of the interaction between Earth's magnetosphere and the "solar wind" of charged particles streaming off the sun. Science output from Cluster greatly advances our knowledge of space plasma physics, space weather, and the sun-Earth connection, and has been key in improving the modeling of the magnetosphere and understanding its various physical processes. The quartet of spacecraft went into orbit in two launches, in July and August 2000.
A Plasma Electron And Current Experiment instrument can measure the three dimensional velocity distribution of electrons in a space plasma, for an energy range from a few electronvolts to about 30 kiloelectronvolts. A PEACE instrument is flying on each of the four Cluster II spacecraft, which were launched in the summer of 2000.
The Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) is a multi-agency partnership to enable, support, and perform the research and development for next-generation space science and space weather computer models. The CCMC partners include NASA; the National Science Foundation; the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center; the Office of Naval Research; and the Air Force Materiel Command, Office of Scientific Research, Research Laboratory, and Weather Agency.
The Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) mission has helped scientists answer fundamental questions about the causes and makeup of the aurora. FAST's primary objective was to study the microphysics of space plasma and the accelerated particles that cause the aurora. FAST's highly elliptical orbit enabled the spacecraft to cross over the auroral zones at Earth's poles four times each orbit. The spacecraft collected high-resolution data ("snapshots") only while in those auroral zones. It also ventured high into the charged particle environment of the aurora to measure the electric and magnetic fields, plasma waves, energetic electrons and ions, ion mass composition, and thermal plasma density and temperature. The FAST mission was launched in 1996.
The Geotail mission is a collaboration between NASA and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of Japan. Its primary objective is to study the dynamics of Earth's magnetotail over a wide range of distances, extending from the near-Earth region to as far as about 200 Earth radii from the planet. The Geotail spacecraft measured global energy flow and transformation in the magnetotail to increase understanding of fundamental processes at work. Since February 1995, Geotail has provided data on most aspects of the solar wind interaction with the magnetosphere. Geotail was designed and built by ISAS and launched in 1992.
Hinode, formerly known as Solar-B, is a satellite equipped with three advanced solar telescopes to explore the magnetic fields of the sun. The spacecraft's solar optical telescope (SOT), X-ray telescope, and EUV imaging spectrometer were designed to study the heating mechanism and dynamics of the extended solar atmosphere (corona). The observations will improve understanding of the mechanisms that power the corona and drive solar eruptions. Hinode was launched in 2006.
IBEX is the first mission designed to map the entire boundary region at the edge of the solar system. As electrically charged particles from the sun (the solar wind) flow outward beyond the orbits of the planets, they collide with the material between the stars -- the interstellar medium, or ISM. These interactions create energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), fast-moving particles with no charge. This region emits no light that can be collected by conventional telescopes, so IBEX, measures the ENAs that happen to be traveling inward from the boundary. IBEX's sole science objective is to discover the nature of the interactions between the solar wind and the interstellar medium at the edge of our solar system. The mission launched in 2008.
The Living With a Star program emphasizes the science necessary to improve our understanding of how and why the sun varies; how Earth and the solar system respond; and how the variability and response affect humanity in space and on Earth. One of the program's key goals is to improve our ability to forecast geomagnetic storms and other forms of stormy "space weather." Such events can interrupt or damage satellite communications systems, trigger surges in power grid systems, and increase radiation hazards to orbiting astronauts and spacecraft.
The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission will advance understanding of Mercury and his history. MESSENGER will be the first spacecraft to achieve a stationary orbit around Mercury. It is also only the second mission, since Mariner 10 in 1974-75, to visit Mercury. To get into orbit around Mercury, it has followed a complex path through the inner solar system. Its journey includes one flyby of Earth, two past Venus, and three gravity-assist flybys of Mercury. MESSENGER launched in August 2004, and began orbiting Mercury in March 2011.
Polar, Wind and Geotail program is a part of the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) Science initiative, combining resources and scientific communities to obtain coordinated, simultaneous investigations of the Sun-Earth space environment over an extended period of time.
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) was designed to study the internal structure of the sun, its extensive outer atmosphere, and the origin of the solar wind. The SOHO spacecraft was built in Europe by an industry team under the overall management of the European Space Agency. European and American scientists provided the 12 instruments on SOHO. NASA was responsible for the launch and is now responsible for mission operations, with mission control based at Goddard Space Flight Center. SOHO was launched in December 1995.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory will further our understanding of the sun's influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time, and in many wavelengths simultaneously.
The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) consists of two space-based observatories. One spacecraft orbits ahead of Earth and the other trails behind. STEREO has revealed the three-dimensional structure of coronal mass ejections -- violent eruptions of matter from the sun that can disrupt satellites and power grids. The twin spacecraft are components of NASA's fleet of space weather detection satellites. STEREO launched in October 2006.
For over 40 years the Sounding Rocket Program has provided critical scientific, technical, and educational contributions to the nation's space program and is one of the most robust, versatile, and cost-effective flight programs at NASA.