2015.A.3.4. SSWARMS: Solar Storm Warning And Radiation Monitoring System


William Edmonson (1)
William Moore (2)
Jared Bell (3)
Peerawan Wiwattananon (4)
Robert Bryant (4)

  1. NC A&T State University, United States of America
  2. Hampton University, United States of America
  3. National Institute of Aerospace, United States of America
  4. NASA LaRC, United States of America




CubeSat, solar storm monitoring, space radiation, heliogyro solar sail, interplanetary mission


Solar energetic particles (SEP) and galactic cosmic ray (GCR) radiation pose a grave danger to those traveling beyond Earth’s magnetosphere. Extreme resource constraints (mass and power) have proven formidable obstacles to the development of practical radiation protection systems on in-space platforms. While GCR radiation is continuous, SEP events are driven by processes originating at the Sun’s surface. Although no reliable SEP forecasting system has yet been developed, it is clear that monitoring of the solar surface will be a necessary element. Accurate prediction of SEP propagation requires monitoring the solar wind with sufficient detail to reconstruct its geometry throughout the inner solar system. The proposed SSWARMS project will investigate the systems and platforms required to achieve a forecasting and monitoring capability that provides a warning capability for astronauts working anywhere in the inner solar system.

The purpose of SSWARMS is to provide continuous monitoring of the inner heliosphere and the solar surface with the goal of accurately estimating the likelihood of actionable radiation levels at any point between Mercury and Ceres with lead times of hours to days. We seek to identify the platforms and sensors needed to accomplish this task, their optimal distribution as a system for providing total and robust coverage, and strategies for updating and/or replacing system elements in a cost-effective manner. One such example of this is to utilize heliogyro solar sails for propulsion and control, which requires no fuel to be carried on the spacecraft but derives its acceleration and direction from solar photon pressure on the sail. To achieve this, we will study a distributed system of small satellites with diverse sensing and communication capabilities deployed in co-orbital resonance with Venus or Mercury.

To determine the most appropriate deployment options for SSWARMS, analysis of involve modeling the configuration of the system elements in orbit around the sun and/or planets to identify minimum system requirements that satisfy the observational coverage and accuracy needs. Additional design constraints are: physical models of solar eruptions that generate SEP events, system configuration necessary to identify and predict the propagation of such events with high reliability, analysis of resource requirements for maintaining this configuration, the robustness of the system to sensor or element loss and degradation, costs of replacing/repairing elements among different configurations, and the communication protocols for reliably sending real-time data and alerts to any point in the inner solar system.


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