Technology Development

Technology Development

HSD pursues advanced technology developments enabling new science and promoting the Nation’s space technology infrastructure. The efforts are supported through competed opportunities such as the Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science (H-TIDeS) program, cooperation with private industry through programs such as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), and a limited internal R&D program. The technology development activities within HSD are coordinated by Dr. Nicholas Paschalidis, Senior Project Scientist for Technology Advancement with support from the Heliophysics Line of Business.

HSD technology development includes:
  • Instruments for remote sensing of the sun in visible/UV/EUV/X-rays and gamma rays with emphasis on advancing spectral and spatial resolution
  • Instruments for in-situ and remote sensing of the heliosphere and the magnetosphere / ionosphere of the Earth and other planets, such as advanced plasma spectrometers, ion and neutral composition and neutral winds, Langmuir probes, energetic particle sensors, neutral atom imagers, UV imagers, and electric and magnetic field instruments
  • Miniaturization of instruments for accommodation on CubeSat and other small platforms
  • Advanced modeling and visualization technologies for space weather research
  • Technologies for constellation and precision formation flying of small satellites for future multi-satellite missions
  • A new 6U Cubesat development - Dellingr – with a goal to offer to the research community a reliable 6U bus for future missions

HSD builds instruments for missions on all scales, including major instruments such as the MMS/FPI Dual Electron Spectrometers and the Solar Wind Composition Analyzer. Here we illustrate three examples of recent HSD instruments that are flying or will soon fly on CubeSats, a focus on miniaturization consistent with the thrust of the Decadal Survey.


The NSF-funded Firefly CubeSat was launched on 19 November 19 2013 and is now returning data on Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs), bremsstrahlung radiation produced by 10-30 MeV electrons that are thought to be accelerated upwards over thunderstorms; a fraction of these electrons could escape the atmosphere and enter the Van Allen radiation belts. Firefly’s highly integrated design accommodates three instruments (VLF radio receiver, optical photodiodes, and a novel fast scintillation detector) in a 3U package.

D. Rowland (674) is Firefly PI. The team includes Siena College, U. Maryland Eastern Shore, the Hawk Institute for Space Sciences, and the GSFC Wallops Flight Facility.


The Compact Radiation Belt Explorer (CeRES) is the first NASA-funded CubeSat mission. The PI is Shri Kanekal (672, pictured). This 3U CubeSat will explore the charged-particle dynamics of the Van Allen belts by measuring precipitating 1-5 MeV electrons and 15-50 MeV protons with a spectral time resolution of 5 ms. The Miniaturized Electron and Proton Telescope (MERiT), based on a stack of silicon solid state detectors, is being built at GSFC for launch in 2015.

Measuring Ionospheric Composition for EXOCUBE

The EXOCUBE mission will measure the densities of all significant neutral and ionized atom species in the ionosphere, including [O], [H], [He], [O+], [H+], [He+], and total ion density, in order to explore physical processes (such as charge exchange) and constrain modeling of the upper atmosphere. The PI is Robert Kerr of Scientific Solutions, Inc.; partners include California Polytechnic State U., GSFC, and U. Wisconsin Madison.

In less than 9 months, the GSFC team, led by S. Jones (674) and N. Paschalidis (670), developed a miniaturized Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) that they will soon deliver for launch in October 2014.

Instruments for Heliophysics Science including TOF x E x Delay Line Particle Technologies

Presentation: HQ_SMD-Tech_Presentation.pdf

From the complex interactions on the sun’s surface and within its corona out to the boundaries of the heliosphere, we are witnessing the development of ground breaking scientific discovery and technological innovation across all disciplines in Heliophysics science and research. Dr. Paschalidis will present information on time of flight (TOF) x Energy x angle particle analyzers, a family of rad hard application specific integrated circuits (ASICs, TOF, Energy, TRIO, CFD, PKD) and delay line imagers. The ASICs and delay imagers were created by Dr. Paschalidis himself and have been flown on missions across science mission directorate including IMAGE, CASSINI, MESSENGER, STEREO, IBEX, PLUTO, RBSP, MMS, JUNO, and will be flown on BebiColombo, Solar Orbiter, Solar Probe Plus, JUICE and also Cubesat missions CeREs and Cusp+. New innovations on neutral/charges particles will be discussed including a compact Ion and Neutral Mass Spec with temperature/drift/wind capability for recent Cube/Small Satellite missions including NSF’s ExoCube1 and ExoCube2, and GSFC Dellingr and PetitSat. The presentation will expand on a diverse portfolio of particles, fields and photon imaging instruments, including platform requirements for constellation and precision formation flying.

Instruments for Heliophysics Science including TOF x E x Delay Line Particle Technologies - 2017 IRAD Results: Foil –MCP –TOF Mass Spectra

Presentation: Foil-MCP-TOF_Mass_Spectra.pdf

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