SAN ANTONIO — May 24, 2021 — On May 20, 2021, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its spacecraft and payload experiments. Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere visible during total solar eclipses, with the “solar wind” that fills the solar system.
PUNCH has instituted a program to recognize and encourage early-career scientists working with the Science Team on problems that support and enhance PUNCH mission science. PUNCH Associate Investigators (AIs) pursue science projects with mentorship from PUNCH co-I(s), attend team meetings, participate in PUNCH working group activities, and present at PUNCH science meetings. They act as liaisons, communicating PUNCH science to the broader community and community needs back to the project. In this way, they help grow the PUNCH user base, and also benefit from the career-enriching experience of being embedded in a NASA mission at an early stage of their careers.
PUNCH, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere, is an in-development NASA mission that will image the outer corona and solar wind throughout the inner heliosphere. Major science topics include origin and evolution of the ambient solar wind and turbulence within it, and the physics and predictability of transient events including CMEs, CIRs, and shocks.
The first PUNCH Science Team meeting was held virtually June 3-5, 2020. 44 team members and colleagues attended, sharing information about the mission, instruments, science goals, and planned data products. We also learned about STEAM, our student enhancement option, and plans for PUNCH Outreach. The Outreach presentation included a member of the Hopi tribe who read aloud his letter of support for our envisioned plan. There are many Science Team members who are experienced and interested in contributing to Outreach and Communications for PUNCH.
On April 8, 2020, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA's critical System Requirements Review/Mission Definition Review (SRR/MDR). Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun's corona, the outer atmosphere visible during eclipses, with the tenuous "solar wind" filling the solar system.
The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission has entered Phase B, which marks the transition from concept study to preliminary flight design. The mission, led by Southwest Research Institute, is set to launch in early 2023 and will image the Sun’s outer corona and beyond.