Study of the heliophysics system requires data-intensive observations from distant vantage points or from small, resource-constrained spacecraft. As for planetary missions, optical communications could enable large data rates. It would be prudent to start development of space and ground-station communications for a swarm of small, low-power, Earth-orbiting satellites and for distant platforms at L5, a solar polar orbiter at high ecliptic latitude, or ultimately an interstellar probe.

Spacecraft Power

In situ study of the outer heliosphere requires operations past the orbit of Jupiter. At such large heliocentric distances, solar power is impractical. Other spacecraft power systems are needed. This applies both to heliophysics and planetary exploration missions. Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generators are a potential solution. There should be a sufficient supply of the radioactive isotope plutonium-238 for use in advanced spacecraft power systems, regardless of the power conversion technology employed.

Advanced Fabrication

The heliophysics community needs access to advanced design and fabrication techniques for new sensing elements, new instrument techniques, and the application of greater computing power to enable scientific progress throughout the field. An agency-supported center could provide valuable assistance to spacecraft teams, instrument designers, and computing groups, serving as a consultant, provider of services, or broker for government or industrial technologies useful in aerospace applications. Rapid and cost-effective creation of custom hardware for the implementation of computational algorithms is needed for advanced sensor systems and for advanced heliophysics modeling. Custom hardware for numerical simulations can exceed by orders of magnitude the speed of general computer implementations.

The experimental community must be able to design and fabricate custom analog, digital, mixed-signal, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices rapidly and cost-effectively. Even complex current technologies such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) continue to drive costs and deliveries. Broad use of these techniques requires access to both design and fabrication methodologies at reasonable cost. Access to advanced fabrication has the potential to revolutionize heliophysics sensor and spacecraft systems.

Policy Issues—ITAR, Risk Management, Frequency Spectrum

International Traffic in Arms Regulations

The United States seeks to protect its security and foreign-policy interests, in part, by actively controlling the export of goods, technologies, and services that are or may be useful for military development in other nations. “Export” is defined not simply as the sending abroad of hardware but also as the communication of related technology and know-how to foreigners in the United States and overseas.2

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which controls defense trade, includes the U.S. Munitions List (USML), which specifies categories of defense articles and services covered by the regulations. In 1999, space satellites were added to the USML. However, in 2002, ITAR was amended to exempt


2 National Research Council (NRC), Space Science and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations: Summary of a Workshop, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.

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