Home : Our Work : Areas of Research : Space Science
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The Space Science Division conducts a broad-spectrum of Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) in solar-terrestrial physics, astrophysics, upper/ middle atmospheric science, and astronomy. Instruments to be flown on satellites, sounding rockets and balloons, and ground-based facilities and mathematical models are conceived and developed.

Researchers apply these and other capabilities to the study of the atmospheres of the Sun and Earth, including solar activity and its effects on the Earth’s ionosphere, upper atmosphere, and middle atmosphere; laboratory astrophysics; and the unique physics and properties of celestial sources.

The science is important to orbital tracking, radio communications, and navigation that affect the operation of ships and aircraft, utilization of the near-space and space environment of the Earth, and the fundamental understanding of natural radiation and geophysical phenomena.



  • Geospace Science & Technology - Conduct research to observe, understand, model, and forecast the geospace environment and its connections to its lower and upper boundaries, toward facilitating and advancing functional capabilities for the Navy/Marine Corps and other agencies. 
  • MSIS - Mass Spectrometer and Incoherent Scatter radar. NRLMSIS 2.0 is an empirical model of the Earth’s atmosphere that describes the average observed behavior of temperature and density from the ground to space (up to ~1000 km altitude), given a location (latitude, longitude, altitude), time of year, time of day, and solar and geomagnetic activity levels, which strongly affect the upper atmosphere.
The model was produced via analysis and assimilation of five decades of diverse atmospheric measurements. MSIS was originally developed in 1977 by Alan Hedin at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as a model of the thermosphere, and was extended down to the ground in 1990. 

  • High-Energy Space Environment - Advance the understanding of the high-energy environment through the development and deployment of advanced detectors, simulation of the environments and operations concepts, and interpretation and theoretical modeling of the observed phenomena, thereby address priority S&T goals of DOD, NASA and other civilian agencies.​
  • Solar and Heliospheric Physics - Develop improved heliospace environment understanding, awareness, sensors, forecast capabilities, and monitoring tools that predict operational impacts and enable real-time threat warning; and transition these developments to support the Navy/Marine Corps and other agencies.
  • WISPRWide-Field Imager for Solar Probe Plus, launched August 12, 2018, is the only imaging instrument onboard the NASA Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission. WISPR records visible-light images of the solar corona and solar outflow in two overlapping cameras, which together cover more than 100-degrees angular width from the Sun.
  • SOHO/LASCO - The Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite (SOHO), launched December 2, 1995, from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The LASCO instrument consists of three coronagraphs that image the solar corona from 1.1 to 32 solar radii. C1-Fabry–Pérot interferometer coronagraph imaging from 1.1 to 3 solar radii; C2-white light coronagraph imaging from 1.5 to 6 solar radii (orange); and C3-white light coronagraph imaging from 3.7 to 30 solar radii (blue).