TABLE 1 Options for Current and Future Solar-Focus Research Facilities


Mission Type



NASA Explorer in halo orbit at L1, launched on August 25, 1997

Real-time monitoring of the composition, density, velocity, temperature, and magnetic fields of the solar wind


NASA Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory

Monitoring of the highest-energy emissions from the Sun

Flare Genesis

NASA balloon program

Solar vector magnetogram


NOAA satellite in geosynchronous orbit that carries geospace and Earth-monitoring (primarily weather-related) instrumentation

Carries solar x-ray flux monitors that warn of flares; also carries instruments for in situ particle and magnetic field measurements; GOES-M will include a solar x-ray imager that will take real-time images of solar activity every minute


Worldwide network of ground-based helioseismology observatories run by the National Solar Observatory

Structure and dynamics of the solar interior


NASA SMEX planned for mid-2000 launch

Simultaneous, high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of solar flares from 3-keV x-rays to 20-MeV gamma rays with high time resolution to expslore during solar maximum the basic physics of particle acceleration and energy release in solar flares


NASA Interplanetary Monitoring Platform mission launched in 1973

Nearly continuous density, velocity, temperature, energetic particle, and magnetic field data on the solar wind and the magnetospheric response to it in a high (30 RE [Earth radius]) near-equatorial orbit. Plasma, magnetic field, and energetic particle data from a near-circular 35 RE, 12-day orbit. Approximately two-thirds of each orbit is in the solar wind. Annual data coverage in the 70% range in recent years; increased coverage in 1998 anticipated


NOAA and USAF network of ground-based optical and radio observatories

Continuous solar optical and radio observations


NASA/ESA mission launched in 1995

Structure of the solar interior, the surface magnetic fields, the inner corona, CMEs, and the solar wind

a Nasa's selection of HESSI for its Small Explorer line occurred after completion of the final draft of this report; therefore, this mission is not discussed in the text. In a brief report published in January 1997 (Space Studies Board, National Research Council, An Assessment of the Solar and Space Physics Aspects of NASA's Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.), the committees recommended that NASA develop a strategy to launch HESSI in time for the upcomming solar maximum.

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