NASA Selects Teams To Study Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

NASA has selected three investigation teams to join the agency’s Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) mission science team in studying Earth’s upper atmosphere, as well as five additional investigations that will be under consideration for inclusion in the mission.

GDC is a coordinated group of satellites that will provide the first direct global measurements of the dynamic and complex region of space enveloping Earth – known as the ionosphere and thermosphere (I-T) region. The constellation’s ability to simultaneously study processes operating across a range of temporal and spatial scales will provide an unprecedented level of understanding of this region. GDC will fundamentally advance scientists’ understanding of this interface to Earth’s space environment much like early weather satellites did for global weather systems. The three GDC investigations selected for flight have a combined budget of $149 million to design and deliver their instruments to the mission.

“GDC will greatly increase our understanding of and ability to mitigate the effects of space weather,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “What we learn from GDC about I-T is both critical for missions in low-Earth orbit, and a critical ingredient for understanding orbital debris in that domain.”

Planned for launch no earlier than September 2027, GDC will orbit in the same altitude range as the International Space Station, approximately 215 to 250 miles above Earth. This region is where Earth’s I-T system strongly responds to energy inputs from the Sun and space environment above, and from the lower atmosphere below – and where it internally redistributes this energy throughout near-Earth space. The processes and dynamics active in this region can lead to many of the space weather effects we experience on Earth, such as disrupted communications and navigation signals, satellite orbit disruptions, and certain triggered power outages. GDC will provide the scientific foundation necessary to understand space weather processes, leading to the ability to better prepare for and mitigate its effects.

The newly selected investigators will join the GDC Interdisciplinary Scientists selected in November 2021: Rebecca Bishop at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, Yue Deng at the University of Texas in Arlington, and Jeffrey Thayer at the University of Colorado in Boulder.



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