The Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) has the mission to defend the United States of America through the control and exploitation of space. It accomplishes this by following a vision of maintaining space warfighting forces by providing continuous deterrence and prompt global engagement for America and its allies. This task falls into four primary mission areas: Space Support, Space Superiority, Space Force Enhancement, and Force Application. Because AFSPC systems and missions operate in and through the space environment, there is concern about what effects the environment has on its systems. By being able to characterize and forecast the phenomenon that create these effects, AFSPC will be able to better assess, mitigate and plan for these effects on its missions.
There are several space-based sensing programs AFSPC is involved with to observe space weather parameters and phenomenon. One of these programs is the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), now operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Suitland Md. Additionally, AFSPC is partnering with NOAA on the follow-on program to DMSP and the Polar Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) called the National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). AFSPC is also directly involved in Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations (ACTD’s). One such ACTD is the Compact Environmental Anomaly Sensor II (CEASE II), a low cost, low weight, low power “Smoke Detector” to assess spacecraft anomalies. Another ACTD that is planned to launch sometime in the spring of 2005, is the Comm/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS). This system, used in conjunction with several ground-based sensors, will provide a real-time characterization of equatorial ionospheric scintillation. Not only will this capability be used for monitoring the environment, but it will also be used to forecast ionospheric scintillation.
AFSPC is not only a data provider, but also a space environmental information user. The command relies upon NOAA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Air Force Weather (AFW) to put together a coherent picture of the current and predicted conditions of the space environment. AFSPC fuses this information to improve situational awareness, mitigate environmental effects, and protect critical DoD space assets. Since AFSPC operates in and through the space environment, improvements and implementation of environmental monitoring and characterization capabilities are needed to better understand and predict the effects on warfighter systems and missions.