Small Satellites for Big Science


As access to space has become more available to the commercial market, a revolution of using small satellites has taken place. The development of small satellites began 30 years ago but only in the last 10 years has it become commercially viable. The use of small satellites to conduct research has been embraced by NASA and the National Science Foundation. This talk focuses on the value of the research and applications that small satellites enable, science that traditional large satellites cannot conduct and applications that are not feasible otherwise. The symbiotic role of small and large satellites for space exploration is explored using Heliophysics Missions and associated spacecraft as examples.

Dr. James F. (Jim) Spann, Jr., is the Heliophysics Division Space Weather Lead at NASA Headquarters. During his 36-year NASA career, he developed and flew in space several auroral UV remote sensing instruments, managed the Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC) science research organization, which includes the disciplines of Astrophysics, Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Earth Science, and served as the MSFC Chief Scientist. A laboratory physicist by training, he earned his BS in mathematics and physics from Ouachita Baptist University and his PhD in physics from the University of Arkansas.

Dr. Spann is the author or co-author of more than 70 peer reviewed journal articles primarily in space physics. He was the Principle Investigator of an international 6U CubeSat mission with the Brazilian space agency called SPORT that will investigate the conditions in Earth’s ionosphere that lead to disruptions in communication and GPS signals. He is also heading up the first Lunar Gateway science payload called HERMES that will study the solar wind and enable better space weather forecasting.

Dr. Jim Spann grew up in Recife, Brazil from age 5, where his parents served as missionaries for over 33 years. He attended a Brazilian school (Colégio Americano Batista) though elementary, then a small international school (American School of Recife) before returning to the United States for college (Ouachita Baptist University and the University of Arkansas). He is an avid soccer fan, enjoys photography, on occasion relaxes with his guitar, and has a strong interest in the overlap of science and faith.


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