formulate a national policy for curation of data from taxpayer-funded scientific research. For heliophysics, the Committee on Space Weather could review and monitor agency data policies.


Space technology has matured over the past five decades, enabling reliable access to both near-Earth space and beyond. Nonetheless, continued progress in heliophysics, carried out with robotic spacecraft, requires infusion of new technology to advance the scientific program affordably. Meeting the survey’s science goals and maintaining leadership in heliophysics requires improved spacecraft technologies, as well as appropriate new sensors and data analysis tools.

The most significant advances in heliophysics over the next decade and beyond are most likely to derive from new observational techniques in new locations. Such techniques require a synergistic combination of spacecraft capabilities, sensors, and data-processing capability. Innovation is most likely to occur in an environment that allows ready access to advanced technology in space. Here “access” refers both to the number of launch opportunities and to appropriate risk policies. Available financial resources ultimately limit all NASA robotic scientific missions, and a very significant driver is launch vehicle cost. Thus a major motivation for technology investment is to provide more scientific capability with fewer spacecraft resources. While mass is typically the primary resource, it is also intimately connected with power, propulsion, and data return capability.

Heliophysics will benefit from developments in spacecraft technologies and policies in six broad areas, based on a review of community white papers and panel reports:

1. Constellations of small (<~20 kg) spacecraft

2. Spacecraft propulsion systems

a. Solar sails

b. High-drag environment

3. Communication systems

4. Spacecraft power systems

5. Access to advanced fabrication

6. Policy—International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), risk management, and radio frequency spectrum allocation.

Items 1 through 4 have been mentioned in surveys and NASA roadmaps for the past decade or longer. Both heliophysics and planetary exploration have interest in items 3 and 4. While some commonality exists in principle for item 2, the implementations differ; for example, aerocapture and aerobraking are more useful for planetary exploration, whereas solar sails, a potentially enabling technology for a variety of heliophysics missions, are less significant for planetary exploration.


The study of the heliophysics system requires multipoint observations to develop understanding of the coupling between disparate regions—solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere, and mesosphere—on a planetary scale and to resolve temporal and spatial ambiguities that limit scientific understanding. Most AIMI and SWMI missions require multiple spacecraft. Approximately 25 community white papers are associated with this topic, and past NASA Heliophysics roadmap concept-missions suggest constellations of 20 to 90 spacecraft.

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