Code 7600 Science Headlines (1960-present)
In the 1960s, the NRL/ Space Science Division (SSD) produced a bounty of seminal scientific discoveries with SSD instrumentation flown on sounding rockets and satellites; shown is the cover from the May 9, 1969 Science magazine in which Fritz, Henry, Meekins, Chubb and SSD’s 3rd Superintendent Herbert Friedman [photo, left middle] reported the discovery of an x-ray pulsar in the general direction of the Crab Nebula. SSD explores space science through all ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum; 1970s achievements included the NRL/SSD discovery of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and the SSD far-ultraviolet (UV) camera/spectrograph that Apollo 16 astronauts used to take pictures of earth from the moon [photo, mid-left].
The 1980s saw the launch of a major NASA high-energy observatory, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory [photo, middle center], and a sophisticated UV solar radiometer that was flown on several Space Shuttle flights [photo, middle right center] to study the sun’s interaction with the upper earth atmosphere.
In the 1990s the launch of LASCO, the NRL/SSD-led Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph white light coronagraph experiment aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, heralded a major achievement: LASCO’s unprecedented spatial resolution and sensitivity provided proof that CMEs cause geomagnetic storms.
The 2000s was a banner decade for SSD’s space projects. Three large space experiments were launched: (1) The Large Area Telescope (LAT) (gamma ray imaging) was a collaborative effort with large SSD hardware contributions that was launched on the NASA Fermi spacecraft, a major world-class astrophysics mission that is opening up the gamma ray sky [launch photo, mid-center]; (2) the NRL/SSD-led Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation (SECCHI) instrument suite of coronagraphs and extreme-ultraviolet imagers on the twin NASA Solar TErrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft [photo, middle right] that are currently orbiting the sun; and, (3) the Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS), developed through an international collaboration between NASA/NRL, the UK, Norway, and Japan, and with NRL/ SSD serving as the US PI institution, which was launched on the Japanese Hinode spacecraft [data image, bottom]. A unique development from the gamma ray astrophysics program is a terrestrial gamma ray imaging system for detection of weapons of mass destruction special nuclear material [photo, lower right]. Other outstandingly successful space experiments include the spherical microsatellites, Castor and Pollux [photo, upper right], which were launched from the Space Shuttle as objects for radar and ballistic coefficient calibration. Among projects currently ongoing in SSD is the design and development for NASA of the SSD-led WISPR, the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe Plus (SPP), which will determine the fine scale electron density and velocity structure of the solar corona and the source of solar energetic particle producing shocks. To be launched in 2018, SPP [image, upper right corner] will complete 24 orbits about the sun over seven years, coming as close as 3.7 million miles above the solar photosphere. Now in its 7th decade, the SSD vigorously continues to perform theoretical, experimental and numerical research of high-energy space [violet spiral, below], heliospace [gold hemicircle], and geospace [aquamarine hemicircle], and to envision, design, integrate, test, launch, operate, and experiment with space science RDT&E capabilities for our world’s most extreme environments.
Areas of Research