NASA Solar Probe Plus Investigations: Community Announcement on Future Solicitation

Status Report From: NASA Science Mission Directorate
Posted: Monday, September 15, 2008


Community Announcement on a Solicitation for NASA Solar Probe Plus Investigations

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) intends to release an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for Solar Probe Plus (SPP) investigations sometime in January 2009.


The SPP AO will invite proposals for two types of PI-led investigations for the Solar Probe Plus mission: (1) Solar Probe Plus instrument investigations are complete science investigations that include provision of instrument(s) or instrument suite(s) to fly on the Solar Probe Plus mission as well as mission operations and data analysis (including archiving); and (2) Solar Probe Plus Observatory Scientist investigation is a science investigation using data from the Solar Probe Plus data and includes actively participating in the SPP end-to-end system engineering effort, acting as a community advocate for SPP, providing an independent assessment of the scientific performance of SPP , and serving as a senior scientist on the SPP Science Working Group.

Participation in this AO will be open to all categories of organizations (foreign and domestic), including educational institutions, industry, not-for-profit organizations, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC's), NASA Centers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and other Government agencies. Principal Investigators are responsible for and allowed to assemble investigation teams from any and all of these organizations.

Instrument investigation proposals may be for individual instrument or for a suite of instruments. The cost cap for all instruments and instrument suites selected for the Solar Probe Plus mission in response to this AO will be approximately $100 Million (real year). The launch of the Solar Probe Plus mission is targeted for no earlier than 2015.


The Solar Probe Plus mission is described in detail in the Report of the Solar Probe Plus Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT), which is available in the Solar Probe Plus Acquisition Library at

The science objectives of the Solar Probe Plus mission are: (1) Determine the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields at the sources of the fast and slow solar wind; (2) Trace the flow and elucidate the thermodynamics of the energy that heats the solar corona and accelerates the solar wind; (3) Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic charged particles; and (4) Explore dusty plasma phenomena and their influence on the solar wind and energetic particle formation.

In its report, the SPP STDT identified one possible instrument complement that can achieve a substantial portion of the science objectives. The list of candidate instruments are as follows:

(i) Fast Ion Analyzer;
(ii) Fast Electron Analyzer;
(iii) Ion Composition Analyzer;
(iv) Energetic Particle Instrument;
(v) Magnetometer;
(vi) Plasma Wave Instrument;
(vii) Neutron/Gamma-ray Spectrometer;
(viii) Coronal Dust Detector; and
(ix) Hemispheric Imager.

The list of candidate instrument types is not intended to restrict the possible approaches, nor is the list intended to preclude consideration of investigations that propose other instruments or combinations of instruments that can provide the necessary observations.

The total payload resources including mass, power, and data for the instrument complement are provided in Table 3-3 of the SPP STDT Report. Individual instrument allocations are shown but should only be considered as a guideline. Proposers may also propose the common Data Processing Unit (DPU) and Low Voltage Power Supply (LVPS) to be used by all instruments.


Important characteristics of this AO are expected to be:

a) Pending the submission of an adequate number of proposals of merit, NASA expects to select a combination of instrument investigations (individual instruments and/or one or more suites of instruments) that address the mission science objectives. In addition, NASA expects to select one Solar Probe Plus Observatory Scientist investigation.

b) Proposals submitted in response to this AO will be evaluated by two independent panels, one to evaluate science merit and feasibility of the science investigation (the Science Peer Review Panel) and the other to evaluate feasibility of the implementation approach, including cost (the Technical, Management, and Cost (TMC) Review Panel).

c) Investigators proposing an instrument suite will be required to provide separate technical and cost information for each instrument in the suite to allow separate evaluation by NASA of each instrument.

d) NASA welcomes proposals having participants from non-U.S. institutions provided that they are offered on a no-exchange-of-funds basis and also comply with current U.S. restrictions concerning the export of technology.

e) Data from Solar Probe Plus investigations must be made fully public in a usable form as soon as is practical. All data products shall be documented, validated, and calibrated in physical units usable by the scientific community at large.

f) All proposals will be required to include in their overall planning both funding and commitment to NASA's Education and Public Outreach (EPO) program (details of the EPO plan will not be required in the proposal but will be required in Phase A/B if selected).

The following schedule describes the anticipated major milestones of the Solar Probe Plus Announcement of Opportunity. These dates are subject to change.

AO Release approximately - Mid-January, 2009
Preproposal Conference - Release + 2 wks
Notice of Intent to Propose due - Release + 4 weeks
Proposals due - Release + 3 months
Non-U.S. Letters of Endorsement - due with proposals
Selections announced (target) -Summer/Fall 2009

Release of the SPP AO is in the process of formally being approved by NASA. However, by sending this announcement to prospective investigators at this time (prior to release), NASA is under no obligation to issue the AO and solicit proposals. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this announcement are incurred completely at the submitter's own risk. The Solar Probe Plus AO may contain provisions that differ from this notice, in which case those in the AO will take precedence.

Questions or comments about this community announcement on a Solar Probe Plus AO may be addressed to the Solar Probe Plus Program Scientist: Dr. Madhulika Guhathakurta, Science Mission Directorate (SMD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DC 20546-0001; E-mail:; Telephone: (202) 358-1992. Comments on the details of this AO should be provided within 4 weeks of this posting to Dr. Guhathakurta in order to be considered in the final AO. The character string "SPP AO" (without quotes) should be included in the subject line of all transmissions.

// end //

More status reports and news releases or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.