- Enable cutting-edge scientific research through the development of low-cost, short-schedule, highly advanced suborbital payloads.
- Provide low-cost, hands-on training experiences for the development of the next generation of SSD scientists and engineers.
- Provide a low-cost (and accordingly, low-risk) test bed for the technology development for future flight projects for the DoD and other government agencies.
Maintain a continuous hardware development program through a successful cycle of concept inception, competition in the NASA LCAS (Low-Cost Access to Space) program, instrument development, launch and science analysis. Currently, SSD has three active sounding rocket programs:
- HERSCHEL (HElium Resonance Scattering in the Corona & HELio-sphere). Successfully flown in 2010, now in science analysis phase;
- VERIS (VEry high Resolution Imaging Spectrometer), scheduled for launch in fall 2013, will provide the first ever spectroscopic investigation of the solar atmosphere at scales
- VAULT (Very high Angular resolution Ultraviolet Telescope), scheduled for flight in fall 2013, will provide ultra high resolution images of the Ly-a layer of the upper chromosphere where much of the energy required for explosive events is stored. It is now in the System Requirements Definition phase
The sounding rocket program provides crucial training in spaceflight instrument development, engineering, and management. Historically, many of the major successful SSD hardware projects were developed and tested as sounding rocket payloads.
- HERSCHEL measured the global helium absolute abundance in the solar corona for the 1st time, linking solar surface and in-situ abundance; produced first global maps of solar wind outflow (H, He+), a key parameterization of solar wind acceleration
- VERIS is the testbed for an SSD flight hardware concept to be proposed to NASA for the upcoming JAXA Solar-C mission
- VAULT has already provided the first sub-arcsec solar images from space and led to the development of a Ly-a telescope for the Solar Orbiter mission. The next flights will bring the SSD science leadership in the budding field of upper chromospheric research