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HelioSwarm Mission Operations Development Team Supports Completion of Major Phase A Milestones
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HelioSwarm Mission Operations Development Team Supports Completion of Major Phase A Milestones

The HelioSwarm Mission Operations Development Team provided essential support leading to the completion of two major Phase A milestones for the HelioSwarm mission concept: the submission of the Phase A Concept Study Report (CSR) in July 2021, and the execution of the Site Visit (SV) in November 2021. The SV was akin to a major programmatic (non-advocate) review; the review was chaired by the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Explorers Office program executive, and the Technical, Management & Cost (TMC) panel was composed of a diverse panel of external subject area experts.

The team led the development of the mission operations concept and the ground data systems architecture, and subsequently authored the operations-related CSR sections and appendices. The team also contributed content to numerous other sections of the 400-page report. In preparation for the SV, the team analyzed potential areas of weakness and potential ambiguities, and prepared materials in anticipation of reviewer questions. For the two-day SV itself, the team staffed key positions in both the “front room” as presenters, and “back room” as subject matter experts. These efforts were critical in presenting HelioSwarm as an attractive and viable mission concept, and ultimately helped lead to SMD’s recent announcement that HelioSwarm has been selected as one of two Sun-study missions for implementation.

BACKGROUND: “HelioSwarm: The Nature of Turbulence in Space Plasmas” is a mission concept submitted in response to the Science Mission Directorate’s 2019 Heliophysics Medium-Class Explorer Announcement of Opportunity. HelioSwarm aims to observe the solar wind over a wide range of scales in order to determine the fundamental space physics processes that leads energy from large-scale motion to cascade down to finer scales of particle movement within the plasma that fills space. Using a swarm of nine spacecraft, HelioSwarm will gather multi-point measurements and reveal the three-dimensional mechanisms that control the physical processes crucial to understanding the dynamics of the Sun, the Sun-Earth connection, and our neighborhood in space.

Based on the Step-1 / Pre-Phase A proposal submitted in September 2019, HelioSwarm became one of five mission concepts competitively selected to proceed into Phase A in August 2020, and then one of two missions selected to proceed into Phase B in February 2022. Dr. Harlan Spence of the University of New Hampshire is the mission Principal Investigator (PI). Ames Research Center’s (ARC) New Opportunities Center led the development of the Step-1 Proposal and the Phase A Concept Study in concert with staff from the ARC Office of the Director of Programs & Projects (Code P), the ARC Office of the Director of Engineering (Code R), the ARC Office of the Director of Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate (Code Q), and the Office of the Director of Exploration technology (Code T), along with major partners Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital ATK) and Blue Canyon Technologies. ARC is the lead for HelioSwarm Project Management, Systems Engineering, and Safety & Mission Assurance elements, with the Intelligent Systems Division (Code TI) specifically leading the Mission Operations and Ground Data Systems elements. HelioSwarm has an initial target launch date in 2028.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Explorers Program, Science Mission Directorate

TEAM: John Bresina and Matthew D’Ortenzio; Butler Hine (Code P); Robert Nakamura (Code RE); and Joseph Bushman (Northrop Grumman Space Systems)

POINT OF CONTACT: Matthew D’Ortenzio,

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