[STSP] Announcement of the National Committee for Space Science (NCSS) Decadal Plan

Iver Cairns ncss at physics.usyd.edu.au
Fri Sep 30 17:08:14 EST 2005

   (Please forward this to interested people.)

The National Committee for Space Science (NCSS) announces
the development of the first Australian Decadal Plan for
Space Science and invites interested people to participate
in the development of the Decadal Plan. The Plan is for
the period 2006 - 2015.

NCSS is the Committee of the Australian Academy of Science
directed to foster the area of space science in Australia
(meaning here all aspects of solar system science beyond the
troposphere), to serve as an effective link between Australian
scientists and overseas scientists in the same field, and to
advise the Academy's Council on relevant matters. NCSS is of
the opinion that it is in the best interests of Australia's
space science community, associated industries, and Government
to develop a first Australian Decadal Plan for Space Science.

Attached are four documents: (1) a draft Process and Schedule
for developing the Decadal Plan, process_NCSS_30sept.doc,
(2) a draft purview of the Plan, purview_NCSS_30sept.txt,
(3) a draft Structure for the Plan, structure_NCSS_30sept.doc,
and (4) a Strawman for the Plan, strawman_NCSS_30sept.txt .
They are intended to excite interest in the Decadal Plan,
to stimulate constructive written contributions on all aspects
of the Plan (including scientific goals, projects and facilities,
industrial capabilities and projects, Government needs, and
links between Science, Industry, and Government), and to recruit
volunteers to develop and promote the Plan.

Based on the draft Process/Schedule, we are now in the
"brainstorming" period for the Plan. NCSS therefore requests
written comments on all aspects of the proposed Decadal Plan
for Space Science and invites interested people to volunteer
their time and relevant expertise to develop the Plan. These
should be sent before the deadline of

28 October 2005

to Dr Iver Cairns, Chair, National Committee for Space Science,
School of Physics, University of Sydney, NSW 2006,


ncss at physics.usyd.edu.au (email) or 02-9351-7726 (fax).

NCSS looks forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely,
on behalf of NCSS,

Iver Cairns, Chair, National Committee for Space Science

(Prof. Charlie Barton, Australian National University,
A./Prof. Iver Cairns, University of Sydney,
Dr David Cole, IPS Radio and Space Services,
Prof. Peter Dyson, La Trobe University,
Prof. Brian Fraser, University of Newcastle,
Dr Alex Held, CSIRO Office of Space Science and Applications,
Prof. Andrew Parfitt, University of South Australia,
Prof. Malcolm Walter, Macquarie University
Prof. Robert Vincent, University of Adelaide).
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   Purview of the 2006-2015 Decadal Plan for Space Science

This document addresses the science foci and overlap of the 
Decadal Plan for Space Science, prepared by the National 
Committee for Space Science (NCSS), and the Decadal Review 
of Astronomy, prepared by the National Committee for 
Astronomy (NCA) as well as demographics. These suggestions 
of NCSS have been agreed to broadly by NCA. 

NCSS wishes its Decadal Plan to focus on science associated with
solar system phenomena and objects, with the NCA Decadal Review
focusing on science associated with extra-solar system phenomena
and objects. This allows each NC to focus on its area of expertise,
minimizes arguments about boundaries, avoids each NC claiming the
entirety of the other's interests, and should allow efficient
referencing and support of the other NC's plans in each NC's

There clearly is overlap. Primary specific examples are the Sun as
"our Sun" (NCSS) versus "a star" (NCA), the heliosphere and local
interstellar medium (NCSS) versus stellar heliospheres and the
distant interstellar medium (NCA), solar system planets (NCSS)
versus exoplanets (NCA), space plasma physics (NCSS) versus plasma
astrophysics (NCA - mostly for extremely relativistic plasmas), the
ionospheres & atmospheres of Earth and solar system planets (NCSS)
versus consequences of Earth's ionosphere for "astrophysical"
observations (NCA), and astrobiology (where NCSS has specific
expertise). Appropriate focusing of the NC documents must be
implemented, as already agreed. For instance, solar science,
solar-terrestrial physics (space weather and the international
Sun-Earth Connections, CAWSES, and ILWS programs), magnetospheric
physics, ionospheric/atmospheric science, space enabling technology
(e.g.,rockets and spacecraft-plasma interactions), and astrobiology
will be major foci of the NCSS Decadal Plan. Primacy in these overlap
areas and all solar system science has been given to NCSS by NCA.

NCSS is of the opinion that the "astronomy" demographics in the NCA
Review should not include space scientists but only astronomers, as
defined above. The NCA and NCSS demographics are unlikely to be 
backwardly compatible since NCA relies upon a contact at each 
institution to complete the demographics and there is likely to be 
little if any memory or continuity from one Review to the next. 
Similarly it will be difficult for NCSS to obtain accurate 
demographics for past years except perhaps by using simpler 
indicators like the number of space science attendees or papers 
at previous Australian Institute of Physics Congresses or STSP 

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  Strawman for Australian Decadal Plan for Space Science (30 Sept. 2005)

This is a third draft by IHC. It is mostly intended to excite 
constructive comments, questions, and modifications by the wider 
space science community. One question to be debated is whether the 
Decadal Plan should be general (including, say, space physics, 
geophysical/planetary remote sensing, and astrobiology) or more 
restricted. IHC feels that it should be more general and inclusive. 
Another is how to best combine and address the interests and needs 
of Science, Industry, and Government. 

1. Basic Structure

Themes (last for multiple decades) -> 

Projects, Needs, and Facilities that last for several years to a decade 
or so. 

2. Constituencies that need to be considered: 

Science, Industry, Government. 

3. Basic Purposes: 

(1) PR so that the Government, politicians, and the public generally 
considers space science to be a National Priority with science 
vital to Australia and the international community that is worthy 
of enhanced financial, infrastructure, and political support.
(2) Organization and unification of the community so that it knows 
what it's primary goals are and agrees to them and how to achieve 

(3) Obtaining further support (financial, political, and technical) 
for the multiple constituencies that make up and are interested in space 

Principles for action/participation in particular research areas: choose 
  i) in which we are known internationally to have extensive 
     expertise and to be competitive
 ii) in which local Australian information/knowledge is a national 
iii) where we can leverage Australia's limited funds so that 
     participation adds unique value and benefits to Australia and, 
     ideally, the international community
 iv) in which we can share, buy into, co-own, or participate in 
     international projects when this is the most cost- and 
     benefit-effective approach.
4. Definition: space science includes all of our solar system beyond 
the troposphere. 

Could claim all astrophysics as well, as for NASA's Space Enterprise, 
but we have left that for the National Committee for Astronomy. 

Include astrobiology and remote sensing. 

5. Draft Themes/Global Science Questions

  i) Understand the Sun and its connections to Earth, including space 
     weather, the atmosphere, and effects on modern human society. 

 ii) Understand the physics, chemistry, geology, and biology of natural 
     space and astrophysical plasmas. (Physics subthemes might 
     include particle acceleration, radiation processes, and magnetic 
     reconnection, while chemistry/geology might include planet formation, 
     and biology links to astrobiology.)

iii) Assess accurately and remotely from orbit the environmental and 
     geological conditions in Australia, Antarctica and their environs. 

iv) Determine the conditions for life to evolve and whether they met 
     elsewhere in our solar system and beyond.   
These are directly relevant to three of the current National Research 
Priorities (e.g., An Environmentally Sustainable Australia, 
Frontier Technologies for Building and Developing Australian 
Industries, and Safeguarding Australia) but are more general. This is 
important since the National Research Priorities are likely to 
evolve on a decadal time scale and the themes must be sufficiently 
"big picture" to remain relevant. They must also be achievable on 
multi-decadal time scales.  

6. Science Facilities/Projects 

These will address specific scientific goals that link into the 
themes and are expected to be achievable during the decade. They are 
organised these into Flagship projects and other projects with 
smaller scope and expense. 

Examples of science goals include: 

a) Understand the processes that cause fast magnetic reconnection to 
occur and result in particle acceleration, with applications to solar 
and magnetospheric plasmas. 

b) Observe and model the drivers of terrestrial space weather from 
the Sun to the ionosphere and troposphere. 

c) Observe and model spatiotemporal variations in energy flow from the 
magnetosphere to the lower atmosphere, including the driving and 
propagation of ionospheric waves and changes in chemistry and other 
properties of the ionosphere and neutral atmosphere. 

6.1 Australian Facilities and Projects

* i) Flagship - OzSat: TEC/GPS, radio communications, magnetometer, 
  radiation belt & cosmic ray particles, solar radio bursts below 70 MHz, 
  cameras and spectrometers for Earth remote sensing
  - Requires a new angle that is appealing & innovative on a national and 
    international stage - not just extending FedSat
  - new studies of localized ionospheric and atmospheric irregularities 
    coupled to space weather events
  - detailed probing of geological magnetic irregularities and space 
    weather signatures
  - radiation belt & cosmic ray observations to complement ground- and 
    aircraft-based studies and space weather events
  - solar radio bursts below 70 MHz and the ionospheric cutoff, for 
    comparison with MWA, SKA, and other ground-based sites. 
  - remote sensing of enviromental and geological features 
    (sprites/thunderstorms?, magnetic perturbations due to ore bodies?)
  - testing of new experiments and technologies before larger-scale 
    international space missions (e.g., thrusters, news sensors ...)
  - signficant industry benefits and high-tech exports

* ii) Flagship - Virtual Center for Space Science, focusing on 
     theory and modeling of space science
  - Builds on existing expertise in space physics, plasma astrophysics
    and astrobiology
  - Access and management of Australian datasets, linkage to eGY and 
    other international data exchange schemes and virtual observatories 
  - Node at U. Sydney on theory/modelling of plasma processes and 
    solar/interplanetary physics - connection to astrophysics
  - Node at Newcastle on magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling
  - Node at Adelaide on supercomputing and ionosphere-atmosphere 
    coupling - DSTO connection
  - Node at LaTrobe on radar physics and ionospheric modelling
  - Node at Macquarie on Astrobiology
  - Vital to integrate new results and to build/bring together the 
    scientific community (plus Industry & Government). 
  - Future Center of Excellence bid?

* iii) Flagship - Octant: Radar, GPS TEC & scintillations, 
       magnetometer, digisonde, solar radio, and radio communication 
       coverage of Australia's octant of the world. Stretches from the 
       South Pole to the Equator and including Australia, New Zealand, 
       Papua New Guinea, and perhaps Indonesia. 

  - space weather and associated magnetospheric, ionospheric, atmospheric
  - solar and interplanetary physics 
  - easy connection to US, Japanese and other networks for global coverage
  - provide vital ionospheric information for astrophyical telescopes (MWA, 
    SKA etc.) 
  - major justification for having SKA in Australia. 
  - provide vital ionospheric and atmospheric info (and cover) for 
  - national security connections: communications, best knowledge of  
    conditions in the Octant, high-tech capability
  - natural connection to FedSat, GPS and international space missions.
  - Links to UN and International Geo/Helio/physical Year programs for 
    small instrument programs? 
  - major industry benefits and high-tech products for export.

  iv) Digitisation and autonomous operation of TIGER and other SuperDarn 
  radars - "Virtual Radars"
  - major improvements in efficiency & effectiveness of operations on 
    going from analog to digital
  - permit remote/virtual & autonomous operation
  - permit multiple arrays to be placed cost-effectively in the Octant 
    and worldwide
  - major industry benefits and high-tech products for export (cf. ATRAD, 
    Genesis etc.). 

6.2 Collaboration on International Projects

  i) NASA's two STEREO spacecraft - official Co-Investigator on the radio 
     and plasma waves experiment SWAVES: 
  - complements Mileura Widefield Array (MWA) and Culgoora data streams and 
  - space weather: prediction of events from solar radio data
  - ideal vehicle for extending theoretical expertise in space plasma 
    physics and solar/interplanetary physics
  - potential links to OzSat and SKA

 ii) I*Y 2007 (various International Years, such as Int. Heliophysical 
     Year, Int. Geophysical Year, ...) 
  - as ~ 1/8 of the globe's surface, Australia should be a major participant. 

iii) Mileura Widefield Array (MWA) Extension and Square Kilometer Array (SKA) 
  -  MWA will be a major solar instrument and probe of the ionosphere
  -  SKA will be a multi-billion dollar international instrument (the "next big 
     thing" in radio astronomy) that could be based in Australia, with major 
     financial and scientific implications
  - successful use of SKA will demand good knowledge of the ionosphere 

 iv) Future international space missions like Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS - 
     NASA) and RAMA/Interstellar Probe [ESA] 
  - hardware and scientific team members?

7. Industry and Government Projects

This Draft only considers Scientific Facilities/Projects in any real detail. 
Some possible industry and Government projects include the following: 

* i) Develop technical capability to design, build, and launch space 
     technology and/or payloads: [Industry & Government] 
  - develop low-cost launch capability for sounding rockets and near and 
    low-Earth orbits
  - test plasma thruster and rocket designs
  - test new sensors and experiments before larger-scale international 
    space missions
  - develop spacecraft design and technology capabilities
  - in-situ testing for atmospheric and ionospheric phenomena observed by 
    Octant, especially at near-equator and mid- latitudes. 
  - links to COSSA, Australian Space Research Institute, National Space 
    Society of Australia & associated satellite programs, plus to existing 
    industry like Electro Optic Systems, Auspace etc.

  Government agencies and departments with interests in space science include 
Defence (e.g., DSTO, communications, radars, remote sensing), DITR [Department 
of Industry, Tourism and Resources] (e.g., IPS Radio and Space Services, 
space weather, communications, industry), Education (e.g., DEST, ARC etc., 
including developing scientifically and technologically literate workers 
for industry, academia etc.)
* ii) Development of an effective Public Outreach program and Speakers Bureau 
      for space science. [Government]
  - Public is generally unaware of Australian expertise in space science. 
  - Effective speakers on space science would be a valuable resource for the 
    nation, as well as relevant constituencies like scientists, industry, 
    and Government

8. Final Comments

This draft make minimal comments on industry or Government, focusing 
mostly on scientific issues and the scientific community, except for the 
associated flow-ons to industry and Government. This should not be interpreted 
as the longterm intention - instead it is a symptom of the relatively small 
amount of cross-linking presently between Science, Industry, and Government, 
something that developing a Decadal Plan will start to rectify. There 
are also no comments on demographics and research productivity, despite 
these areas providing important arguments for considering Space Science to 
be a very productive area for investment and development. 

 ______________________________________________ Iver Cairns. 

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