SIOS contributes to an international campaign to explore the auroral cusp

On Thursday, 6 April, SIOS signed a joint statement of scientific coordination with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and UiO (The University in Oslo). SIOS role will be the facilitation of data exchange through the SIOS data management services.

The United States, Norway and Japan signed a joint statement of scientific coordination on April 6, 2017, for participation in the Grand Challenge Initiative – Cusp - a series of international sounding rocket missions planned for launch in 2017-2019. The Grand Challenge will provide significant advances in understanding of near-Earth space beyond what each partners’ independent projects could achieve individually.

The Grand Challenge studies the cusp, a region at each pole where the magnetic bubble surrounding Earth dips inward, allowing space particles to funnel in toward our planet. The missions will launch from two sites in Norway – Andøya Space Center and Svalbard Rocket Range. Sounding rockets launched from these sites are able to fly into the cusp and measure the solar particles streaming from the sun.

The joint statement outlines a framework for data sharing and future collaboration between current and future Grand Challenge partners. All participants will develop a plan to make their data publicly available. Combining data from multiple missions maximizes the partners’ ability to research and understand this little-explored region of near-Earth space.

From left to right: Dr. Ole Jørgen Lønne, Director, Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System; Dr. Saku Tsuneta, Director General, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science FOR THE JAPAN AEROSPACE EXPLORATION AGENCY; Dr. Elsayed Talaat Chief Scientist,  signs for Mr. Steven Clarke, Director, Heliophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate FOR THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION; and Prof. Ole Petter Ottersen, Rector for the University of Oslo, Norway. Photo: Hilde Lynnebakken/ University of Oslo.


Ground-based sites will also provide valuable data during the missions. In some cases, launches will be conducted nearly simultaneously from Andøya and Svalbard, providing simultaneous observations at different altitudes and latitudes for the first time.

NASA missions include the Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2 experiment or VISIONS-2, Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics or TRICE-2, The Cusp Alfven and Plasma Electrodyanmics Rocket or CAPER-2, Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment or AZURE, and the Cusp-Region Experiment or C-REX 2, which also includes three Canadian university instruments.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will fly the SS-520-3, which investigates the ion outflow mechanism, and Norway will conduct the Investigation of Cusp Irregularities-5 or ICI-5 mission.

In addition, an international undergraduate student mission called G-Chaser will be conducted in January 2019.Additional partners are encouraged to join this effort by contributing a range of capabilities, such as ground-based observations, other space-based observations, theory, or modeling efforts. All partners will share equally in the combined database produced by GCI-Cusp.

Schematic of Grand Challenge activities: The white lines represent rocket trajectories, while red and blue areas show the field of view of the ground-based instruments and cusp, respectively. The missions of the campaigns are listed on the left and the ground-based instruments on the right. Figure: Trond Ambrahamsen, Andøya Space Center.


Additional information on the GCI-Cusp is available at:


Karen Fox
NASA Headquarters, Washington DC

Keith Koehler
Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia

Jøran Moen
University of Oslo
+47 915 56 414

Chisato Ikuta
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)