Space Research

image of Saturn and satellite

Images courtesy NASA.

SwRI scientists are playing a major role in a number of NASA and ESA missions, either as mission Principal Investigators (IBEX, Juno, New Horizons, MMS) and/or instrument leads (e.g., Juno/JADE, Juno/UVS, LRO/LAMP, NH/SWAP, NH/ALICE, MMS/HPCA).

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Space Research Capabilities

The Space Science Department’s research activities focus principally on understanding the behavior of electrically charged particles (plasmas) and electromagnetic fields at the Sun, in planetary magnetospheres and interplanetary space, and at the heliosphere’s interface with the local interstellar medium. The scope of the department’s research program extends from the Sun to the very edge of the solar system, where, some 8 billion miles from Earth, the outflow of electrically charged particles from the Sun (the solar wind) encounters the Local Interstellar Medium.

The design and development of instrumentation for the exploration of the terrestrial, planetary, and interplanetary space environments is one of the Department’s major areas of activity. SwRI has provided in-situ and remote-sensing instruments for both NASA and European space missions, including the Cassini Saturn Orbiter, Deep Space 1, IMAGE, Mars Express, Rosetta, Venus Express, New Horizons, TWINS, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Juno, and the Mars Science Laboratory and is currently building the hot plasma composition analyzers for NASA’s four-spacecraft Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission and the Strofio neutral mass spectrometer for the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

Other departmental areas of expertise include the development of both flight and ground software and the design, production and testing of high-voltage power supplies.

Mihir Desai, Ph.D., Director

Top: Photo of the aurora australis from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/JSC.

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.