Magnetospheric mission data are publicly available from a diverse group of geographically-dispersed service providers whose capabilities range from simple FTP service to HTTP-based, query-enabled sites; from single instrument data services to large, multi-spacecraft data archives. The diversity of mission data services is expected to further increase with time. Therefore, it is desirable to establish a data environment that connects the data services and allows user access to them via a common interface.
The Virtual Magnetospheric Observatory (VMO) is a dynamically evolving data environment where individual elements can be introduced as the need arises. The benefits of VMO data environment to the space physics community include, for example, a uniform find, access, and use of resources (data, software, documentation, and services using these) from a collection of distributed data and service providers. An integral part of the VMO is to provide a set of standards for the easy inclusion of additional data and service providers, resulting in (1) a flexible and extensible VMO and (2) a capability sufficient for new and exciting magnetospheric and magnetosheath research.
The VMO is a part of the NASA's LWS Data Environment. LWS seeks to establish a global understanding of the Sun-Earth system with a focus on those aspects that affect human endeavors. Both for this purpose and to carry out the other research of NASA's Sun-Solar System Connection (S3C) theme more efficiently, many committees and study panels have recommended a distributed, integrated, flexible data environment - Space and Solar Physics Virtual Observatories (VxOs).