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The WFI-1 Observatory is now fully integrated! It is the PUNCH fleet leader through environmental testing, which is scheduled to begin this week. On Friday 26-April, the WFI-1 Observatory collected its first science image through the WFI instrument: a team selfie in the Building 299 clean room where PUNCH I&T is proceeding. The image includes the WFI baffle “horizon” (at left, as the Observatory was on its side in the mounting cage), the massive doors into the high bay, one of the other Observatories in the background, and seven team members who were conducting the test. From left to right: Kelly Smith, Jim Foster, Ronnie Killough, Glenn Laurent, Emily Fisher, Brandon Perez, and Tonya Brody, all in cleanroom garb, with another PUNCH spacecraft visible just over Tonya’s shoulder.


After six years in use the PUNCH logo got a makeover in April. The newer rendering is similar to the old, but with some important fixes. The central swoops now reproduce better in more different media. The diffraction spikes on the stars work correctly (all facing the same direction). Additionally, the new render is a scalable SVG file, allowing reproduction on media of all sizes from pop-sockets to Falcon 9 stages.


The PUNCH instrument, spacecraft, and integration teams presented the status of the mission to NASA and the PUNCH Standing Review Board (SRB) on the 27th and 28th of February, in the first SRB meeting since Critical Design Review in 2022. The PUNCH instruments are being integrated to the spacecraft now, in preparation for flight. The Pre-Environmental Review (PER) ensures that all is well before the completed Observatories undergo final testing for flight: vibration, thermal performance in vacuum, etc.


The Southwest Research Institute WFI team have delivered their first flight instrument (WFI-1) to the Integration and Test team for integration onto a flight PUNCH Observatory! WFI is a wide-field heliospheric imager, similar to an externally occulted coronagraph with a linear geometry. It will view a 40° wide field-of-view extending from 4.5° to approximately 45° from the Sun. WFI-1 will be integrated to a PUNCH spacecraft later this winter, in preparation for observatory environmental testing through the spring of 2024. PUNCH is scheduled to launch by early April of 2025.


The Naval Research Laboratory team has completed integration and test of the PUNCH Narrow Field Imager (NFI), and delivered the instrument to SwRI for integration into the PUNCH Observatories! NFI is an externally occulted coronagraph based on NRL’s CCOR design. it covers the central part of the PUNCH field of view, from approximately 5 to 32 solar radii from the Sun itself. NFI will be the first primary instrument integrated to a PUNCH Observatory, in late calendar year 2023, and will fly with the rest of PUNCH when the mission launches (est. April 2025).


The Colorado Space Grant Consortium successfully delivered its student collaboration instrument, the STudent Energetic Activity Monitor (STEAM), for integration into the PUNCH OBservatories! STEAM is a soft X-ray spectrometer build around a solid state detector, with a small microprocessor to interface with the spacecraft. STEAM will view the Sun as a star, and probe the energetics of solar falres and coronal heating throughout the PUNCH mission. STEAM will be integrated onto the Narrow Field imager (NFI) Observatory and fly with NFI when the mission launches (est. April 2025).


PUNCH has passed its Critical Design Review, a major milestone in the course of the mission. The three-day design review was a hybrid meeting, held in person at SwRI headquarters in San Antonio, TX, March 1-3. The team presented current mission design, and fabrication, integration, and test plans, to representatives from NASA and from the mission’s independent Standing Review Board. This was the first mission milestone meeting to be held in-person, since the initial Phase B kickoff meeting held in 2019 immediately after selection.

2021-07-23 NASA blog post

PUNCH has passed its Key Decision Point C, and has been confirmed as a “GO” for development and flight. The decision was made in a hybrid in-person & remote meeting at NASA Headquarters between project management, the Explorers Program, the Mission Directorate, the joints heads of the Science Divisions, and the Associate Administrator for Science. The mission is transitioning to a merged Phase C (Final Design) and Phase D (Assembly, Integration, & Test). PUNCH Phase C/D continues through launch plus 90 days. More details will be posted shortly.


The PUNCH mission consists of four spacecraft in Earth orbit that together will be uniquely capable of imaging the space environment from the outer corona of the Sun all the way to Earth orbit. There is a Near Field Imager and three Wide Field Imagers (WFIs).


SAN ANTONIO — May 24, 2021 — On May 20, 2021, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its spacecraft and payload experiments. Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere visible during total solar eclipses, with the “solar wind” that fills the solar system.


On April 8, 2020, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA's critical System Requirements Review/Mission Definition Review (SRR/MDR). Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun's corona, the outer atmosphere visible during eclipses, with the tenuous "solar wind" filling the solar system.

2019-09-26 SwRI press release

The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission has entered Phase B, which marks the transition from concept study to preliminary flight design. The mission, led by Southwest Research Institute, is set to launch in early 2023 and will image the Sun’s outer corona and beyond.