NASA has announced that it has selected three proposals for concept studies that aim to help understand the dynamic space weather system driven by the sun near the Earth. The proposals will examine what drives different parts of that system and what will ultimately help us to predict and mitigate the effects on spacecraft and astronauts. Each of the Heliophysics Mission of Opportunity is funded with $400,000.
The funding will be used to conduct a nine-month mission concept study. Once the study period is over, NASA plans to choose one to go forward to launch. The three proposals selected are The Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope (EUVST) epsilon Mission, Aeronomy at Earth: Tools for Heliophysics Exploration and Research (AETHER), and Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE).
The EUVST mission goal is to provide an answer to a fundamental question of solar physics, which is how does the interplay of solar material in the form of hot plasma and magnetic fields drive solar activity and eruptions. Solar activity is solar flares, and eruptions would be coronal mass ejections. This mission would launch with the Japanese solar-C mission in 2025.
AETHER aims to explore the ionosphere-thermosphere system and is a response to geomagnetic storms. The mission would be positioned aboard the ISS and would gather observation of the ionosphere. AETHER would launch no later than 2024.
EZIE mission would focus on the electrical current known as the auroral electrojet. That circles the atmosphere at 60 to 90 miles above the Earth near the poles. The mission would use three SmallSats to measure magnetic fields and observe the electrojets and explore what causes them and how they evolve.