recommended reading

Space weather forecast system could cost $2 billion

Solar flares and solar winds are common types of space weather NASA measures.

Solar flares and solar winds are common types of space weather NASA measures. // NASA

Variations in space weather have the potential to disrupt the electric power grid, telecommunications and Global Positioning Systems -- virtually all public infrastructure. To predict such disruptions, a comprehensive space weather forecasting system could cost between $1 billion and $2 billion during the next decade, space scientists told members of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

Costs would include replacing the Advanced Composition Explorer satellite, which provides data for geomagnetic storm warnings issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s  Space Weather Prediction Center, which has operated  13 years beyond  its two-year design life, Laura Furgione, acting director of the National Weather Service, told the committee’s panel on space and aeronautics.

Furgione said the ACE satellite represents the “single point of failure” for critical geomagnetic storm measurements and NOAA planned to replace it with the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite that NASA developed and placed in storage in November 2001. NOAA plans to launch DSCOVR in 2014, but Furgione told the hearing that it too has a two-year design life.

NOAA will have to consider a variety of options to replace these two key spacecraft, including hosting payloads on commercial satellites, using space weather information provided by other countries and commercial space weather data, Furgione said.

Charles Gay, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, testified that research missions the agency’s multisatellite Heliophysics Explorer program conducted can be adapted to provide solar, solar wind and near-Earth observations essential for NOAA’s space weather forecasting mission. He added NASA has agreed to work with the European Space Agency on a Solar Orbiter Collaboration  project that will use a new satellite slated for launch in 2017 to help where solar winds, plasma and magnetic fields originate in the sun’s corona.

Subcommittee chairman Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss., said in his opening statement that “as we enter into the next solar maximum -- an 11-year solar cycle marked by increased solar activity -- the availability of solar wind measurements in particular are essential for maintaining our way of life.” But, he added, the need for improved space weather forecasting has to be balanced against budgetary realities, which means a “prudent and careful examination of the core capabilities and essential services” is needed.

Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the  University of Colorado at Boulder and the expert who estimated the space weather program’s costs, said costs could be cut by multiagency cooperation among NOAA, NASA, the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation.

The potential impacts of space weather on the country’s infrastructure and economy demand high-level oversight, Baker said. He recommended a national space weather program be chartered under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council and include the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget.

Do you want to know more about the outlook for federal IT in 2013? Attend Nextgov Prime on Monday, Dec. 3, where key lawmakers will outline their plans for reforming the way agencies buy technology. Our expert panels will discuss the future of cloud computing, cybersecurity, data analytics and more. 

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.