Press Release

Johns Hopkins APL, University of Colorado Boulder Advance in NASA Space Weather Proposal Opportunity

A multi-institutional team including the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is one of three concept teams chosen by NASA competing to develop Phase-A proposals to enact the space agency’s Dynamical Neutral Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling (DYNAMIC) mission.

Each of the three teams will receive funding for a Phase-A, nine-month concept study, after which NASA will select a single winning proposal. The mission will ultimately design and build a satellite with science payloads to explore fundamental gaps in our understanding of how changes in the lower atmosphere influence the upper atmosphere and low Earth orbit.

“We’re grateful and overjoyed for this opportunity to work together to make our vision of DYNAMIC a reality,” said Tomoko Matsuo, principal investigator (PI) on the project and an associate professor in the Ann and H. J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder. “With these measurements, we can finally gain an understanding of the critical link between Earth’s atmosphere and space.”

Additional partners joining APL and CU Boulder include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, Clemson University in South Carolina, Arizona State University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

The team’s project will fulfill science goals recommended by the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

When launched, DYNAMIC is expected to provide comprehensive measurements ofthe upper atmosphere in the very low Earth orbit (VLEO) range (below 300 km, or 186 miles) — the new frontier for spacecraft operation. This will provide a deeper understanding of how space weather— events generated by activity on the Sun and the Earth’s weather — can interfere with satellites, navigation systems and other technology.

“We have been looking forward to a mission such as DYNAMIC for many years, and are grateful for the NASA step 1 selection,” said Jason Kalirai, APL’s mission area executive for Space Formulation. “Our PI, team at the Lab and partners across the nation are excited to push forward on a new heliophysics mission that will answer fundamental questions about how space weather affects our planet.”

Adapted from a NASA release