Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Geomagnetic storms are the most damaging and costly space weather event, with impacts on power utilities, civil polar aircraft, GPS navigation and geolocation, and military defense systems. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requires solar wind measurements and coronal mass ejection (CME) imagery to warn of geomagnetic storms. Both requirements are currently met by research missions. NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) returns realtime solar wind data. The NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) return CME imagery. NOAA has developed a plan to transition these research capabilities to operational systems over the next several years. For the first step, NOAA plans to refurbish, launch, and operate the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) to monitor the solar wind, and procure a demonstration-class CME imager from the Naval Research Lab (NRL) to fly on DSCOVR or another platform. The Real Time Solar Wind Network (RTSWnet), an international collaboration of ground stations, will continue to downlink solar wind data. The current plan for long-term continuity of solar wind and CME data after DSCOVR includes the option for a commercial data buy. Multiple studies of commercial options have led to an approach that could be implemented if it meets NOAA's operational requirements and is more cost-effective than a government developed mission.
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