Metis Leads Flight Dynamics for NASA HelioSwarm Mission Design

Earlier this week, NASA selected five proposals for concept studies of missions to help improve understanding of the dynamics of the Sun and the constantly changing space environment with which it interacts around Earth. Among those mission receiving awards was HelioSwarm, led by Harlan Spence at the University of New Hampshire in Durham with significant support from NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. Using a swarm of nine SmallSat spacecraft, HelioSwarm would gather multi-point measurements and be able to reveal the three-dimensional mechanisms that control the physical processes crucial to understanding our neighborhood in space.

Metis engineers, led by Principal Systems Engineer Laura Plice, conducted groundbreaking mission design leadership for the HelioSwarm proposal answering NASA’s 2019 Heliophysics Medium Explorer (MIDEX) announcement of opportunity (AO). The Metis Flight Dynamics staff solved unique and exceptionally difficult challenges associated with determining relative navigation and orbital trajectories for the proposed HelioSwarm satellite constellation. Specifically, the HelioSwarm mission design included trajectory features of lunar gravity assist and lunar resonance in High Earth Orbit (HEO), as well as complex coordination of nine co-orbiting satellites taking temporally and spatially coordinated measurements of the solar wind.

Additional projects relying on expertise provided by Metis personnel include the Starling multi-satellite mission in the Small Satellite Technology Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, BioSentinel, a cubesat secondary on Artemis 1, and Ames’ early concept studies for the Aeolus mission, in preparation for the next Discovery proposal opportunity. Metis staffs the role of Subject Matter Expert in flight dynamics at NASA Ames for internal reviews of proposed concepts in the areas of feasibility, trajectory, orbit requirements, spacecraft activity planning, and operations.  Metis team members frequently field ad hoc inquiries on technical feasibility or orbital mechanics from a wide range of Ames projects and sources. This work is performed as a subcontractor to Millennium Engineering and Integration Company on the NASA Ames Projects and Engineering Support Services (PESS) contract.

For more information, see:

Plice, L., A., et al., 2019. “HelioSwarm: Swarm Mission Design in High Altitude Orbit for Heliophysics,” AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference; August 2019, Portland, ME. AAS 19-831

About Metis:
Metis Technology solutions is a Woman-Owned Small Business that combines a commitment to innovation with expertise in software engineering, cybersecurity, aerospace engineering, and systems development to address compelling challenges in space and defense applications.  Since 2011, the exceptional engineers and scientists of Metis have helped the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and other clients solve some of the most challenging problems related to Spaceflight Systems, Satellite Ground Systems, Automated Cybersecurity Compliance, and Modeling and Simulation.

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