NASA Adjusts IMAP Schedule to Accommodate COVID-19 Precautions

To accommodate schedule changes due to precautions regarding COVID-19, the preliminary design review for NASA’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe, or IMAP, has been moved from February to May 2021. Similarly, the launch readiness date is delayed from Oct. 1, 2024, to Feb. 1, 2025.

Over the course of its mission, IMAP will explore and map the boundaries of our heliosphere – the volume of space filled with the wind from the Sun – and study how it interacts with the local galactic neighborhood beyond. These boundaries, which offer protection from the harsher radiation of interstellar space, may have played a role in creating a habitable solar system, and are critical in enabling safe human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Designed with 10 scientific instruments to measure a large range of particles and fields, IMAP will investigate how particles are accelerated and determine the composition of particles and dust in our local neighborhood. IMAP also will enable and mature new ways of forecasting space weather, including geomagnetic storms and solar energetic particles, through streaming real-time observations to the ground.

IMAP will launch on a  Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket provided by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California. This launch will include several other Rideshare missions: NASA’s Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere, NASA’s Solar Cruiser, NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer, and NOAA’s Space Weather Follow-On L1.

Princeton University professor, David J. McComas leads the mission and an international team of 24 partner institutions. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland builds the spacecraft and operates the mission. IMAP is the fifth mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program portfolio. The Heliophysics Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the STP Program for the agency’s Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.