NASA is moving forward with plans to develop six observatories designed to study the local and global effects of the Sun’s activity on Earth's high- and mid- latitude regions with a launch in the late 2020’s.
The Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) project intends to publish the draft spacecraft Request for Proposal (RFP) in August and the final spacecraft RFP approximately three months later, NASA said in contract documents released Monday. Proposals are expected to be due 30 calendar days after the release of the final RFP.
GDC is a mission concept to study the coupling between the magnetosphere and the ionosphere/thermosphere system, and how that coupled system responds to external energy input.
GDC will address crucial scientific questions pertaining to the dynamic processes active in Earth’s upper atmosphere; their local, regional, and global structure; and their role in driving and modifying magnetospheric activity, according to the the project's website. GDC will be the first mission to address these questions on a global scale due to its use of a constellation of spacecraft that permit simultaneous multi-point observations. This investigation is central to understanding the basic physics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere and its interaction with Earth’s magnetosphere, but also will produce insights into space weather processes.
In April, NASA selected three investigation teams to join the GDC mission science team as well as five additional investigations that will be under consideration for inclusion in the mission.
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, D.C. “What we learn from GDC 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.