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NASA’s PUNCH Mission Enters Next Phase

By | September 27, 2019

The PUNCH mission will include four microsatellites that work together to watch the entire heliosphere. Photo: SwRI

Southwest Research Institute-led The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission entered Phase B, which marks the transition from concept study to preliminary flight design. The mission is set to launch in early 2023 and will image the Sun’s outer corona and beyond.

NASA selected SwRI in June 2019 to lead the PUNCH mission. PUNCH consists of four microsatellites the size of suitcases that will orbit the Earth in formation to study how the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, connects with the interplanetary medium, and to provide the first global images of how the solar corona infuses the solar wind with mass and energy.

“In this phase, our team will advance the mission concept to a preliminary full design of the mission,” said Dr. Craig DeForest, scientist and program director in SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division. “The overall goal for the phase is to refine our existing concept design and make sure all the elements can come together on a practical level.”