| 9 July 2001
For Immediate Release
APL Awarded $600 Million Contract
Multiple Missions Will Study Solar Effects
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., has been awarded a NASA contract worth up to $600 million over 12 years to study the sun and its effects on Earth. The contract was awarded by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) on June 28. Under the terms of the contract, APL will design, develop and operate some of the missions involving multiple spacecraft for the agency's Living With a Star (LWS) and Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) programs.
"This contract is recognition of APL's extraordinary space research accomplishments and a vote of confidence in our future contributions," says APL's Space Department Head Tom Krimigis. Although the near-term impact on personnel requirements within the Space Department will be minimal, he says the award "has the potential to give our Space Department an abundance of work for the next decade.
"Living With a Star-related missions will start gearing up just as our work in some of the existing programs, such as CONTOUR, MESSENGER and STEREO, is slowing down," continues Krimigis. "And, of course, working with our colleagues at NASA Goddard and in the broader science community on such a pioneering program will be both rewarding and exciting."
30 Years and Counting
This partnership with NASA Goddard stems from the Lab's long-term relationship with NASA. In a letter to Congress last year citing some reasons for establishing this partnership, NASA stated, "For over 30 years, NASA has had a relationship with APL. During this long interaction, APL has become particularly strong in the Sun-Earth Connection theme and now provides essential engineering capability to GSFC in implementing this program."
APL Director Richard Roca says, "This coalition with NASA Goddard and with other industry, institutional and interagency partners will have far-reaching effects, and we're proud to be participating in such an important effort."
LWS missions will help scientists better understand the sun's effects on humans and our planet. "The goals are to address aspects of the sun-Earth system that affect life and society, specifically effects on humans in space and on satellite operations, power and communications, and global climate change," says Ken Potocki, APL's project manager for LWS. "APL is currently teaming with NASA Goddard to provide engineering and science support in defining a Geospace Missions Network scenario."
Two key focuses of the program are effects on satellite systems and human radiation exposure. "Society has become so reliant on satellites for things such as communications and navigation that it's imperative we learn more about our sun and how it affects us," says Larry Zanetti, APL's project scientist for LWS. "Radiation exposure from solar storms affects airline crews and astronauts," he adds. "And because of this, during recent major storm events, polar airline flights were rerouted and the International Space Station was put on round-the-clock alert.
"Living With a Star missions will help scientists better predict solar events and determine ways to protect against damaging effects," add Zanetti.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory, the first LWS mission, will be built by NASA Goddard, and is slated for launch in 2006.
Solar Terrestrial Probes
Scheduled to launch this fall, the TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics) spacecraft — designed, built and operated by APL — is the first STP mission. STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory), the third STP mission, is now in the design phase at APL. The Lab will also build and operate the twin STEREO spacecraft. The two observatories are scheduled to launch in 2005.
The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, uses innovative science and technology to solve complex problems that present critical challenges to the nation.