SunRISE mission: NASA announces new mission to study Giant Solar Particle Storms

The SunRISE mission will provide critical information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment. This will protect the astronauts flying in future Moon or Mars missions. 

Created On: Apr 1, 2020 11:47 ISTModified On: Apr 1, 2020 06:26 IST
Sunrise mission

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected a new mission-SunRISE on March 30, 2020 to study how the Sun creates and releases giant solar particle storms.

The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) mission also aims to help scientists understand the workings of the Solar System. It will also help protect astronauts going to the Moon and Mars in the future from the solar storms.

The mission is expected to be launched on July 1, 2023.


•  The SunRISE mission will provide critical information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment. 

•  This will protect the astronauts flying in future Moon or Mars missions. 

•  It will also study a part of the sun’s spectrum that can’t be seen on earth due to the ionosphere. 

•  It will also help provide information that other solar probes- Parker Solar Probe, Solar Orbiter, and the ground-based Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope couldn’t get.


The more information there is about the Sun and how it impacts space weather events, the easier it would be to reduce its effects on the astronauts and spacecraft.

SunRISE mission: Key Highlights

•  The SunRISE mission will have six CubeSats operating as one very large radio telescope. 

•  The mission, attached by a Payload Orbital Delivery System (PODS), will deploy the 6 CubeSats in a Geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO). The 6 CubeSats would fly at a distance of at least 10 km from each other. 

•  The CubeSats will simultaneously observe the radio images of the low-frequency emission from solar activity and share them through NASA’s Deep Space Network

•  The CubeSats will fly above the Earth’s atmosphere, which otherwise blocks the radio signals SunRISE will observe.

•  The six CubeSats will create 3D maps to pinpoint the place where the giant particle bursts originate on the Sun and how they evolve as they move outward into space.  This information will help determine what initiates and accelerates these giant jets of radiation. 

•  The six CubeSats will also work together to map the pattern of magnetic field lines reaching from the Sun out into interplanetary space. This mapping will be undertaken for the first time. 

•  The SunRISE mission has been proposed to launch as a rideshare mission on a commercial satellite built by Maxar. It is likely to be launched using a commercial rocket. 

Note- This SunRISE mission is possible due to the success of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) and the DARPA High-Frequency Research (DHFR). The missions had demonstrated technologies that will be used on the SunRISE mission and made technologies a low-cost, low-risk option for the mission. The six CubeSats are equipped with software-defined radios and GPS. 


NASA had chosen two missions in August 2017 for its Mission of Opportunity program, a part of its Explorers Program, to conduct an 11-month concept study. The SunRise mission was one of the two missions. 

NASA approved an extra year for the program’s formulation study in February 2019. The space agency was awarded $62.6 million in March 2020 to design, build and launch the SunRISE mission. The mission is expected to be launched in July 2023. 

The SunRISE is being managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. 

NASA's Missions of Opportunity

NASA's Missions of Opportunity pairs relatively inexpensive missions with launches on spacecraft that have prior approval to maximise retrieval of science studies. 

The SunRISE mission has been proposed to be launched as a rideshare mission, on a commercial satellite provided by Maxar and built with a Payload Orbital Delivery System, or PODS. The host spacecraft will deploy the six spacecraft once it is in the orbit and then continue its main mission. 

The Missions of Opportunity are a part of NASA’s oldest continuous programme- Explorer’s Program, which aims to provide frequent, low-cost access to space. The Explorer’s Program had its first launch in January 1958 with US's first satellite. 


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