NOAA Readies for Addition to its Space Weather Toolkit

An artist’s rendering of the SWFO-L1 satellite. (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is planning an advanced satellite that will improve forecasts and warnings for potentially damaging solar activity while perched in a Sun-facing orbit a million miles from Earth.

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Solar Cycle 25 Is Here. NASA, NOAA Scientists Explain What That Means

This split image shows the difference between an active Sun during solar maximum (on the left, captured in April 2014) and a quiet Sun during solar minimum (on the right, captured in December 2019). December 2019 marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 25, and the Sun’s activity will once again ramp up until solar maximum, predicted for 2025. (Credits: NASA/SDO)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Solar Cycle 25 has begun. During a media event on Tuesday, experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed their analysis and predictions about the new solar cycle – and how the coming upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth, as well as astronauts in space.

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What’s the Big Deal about Solar Cycles?

Sun and Earth (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — The Sun is Earth’s nearest star—a giant orb of hydrogen and helium about 93 million miles away. To many people, it looks like the same constant ball of light day after day as it moves across the sky. However, our Sun actually goes through a cycle of increasing and decreasing activity that lasts for about 11 years.

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NASA Awards NOAA’s Space Weather Follow On – Supra Thermal Ion Sensor

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has awarded the Space Weather Follow On – Supra Thermal Ion Sensor contract to the Regents of the University of California, Berkeley.

This is a cost no-fee contract with a total value of $7,523,169. The period of performance is from the date of award through June 30, 2026. The work will be performed at University of California, Berkeley.

The principal purpose of this requirement within the Space Weather Follow On (SWFO) Project is to design, analyze, develop, fabricate, integrate, test, calibrate, evaluate and support launch and on-orbit check-out of the Supra Thermal Ion Sensor (STIS) instrument as part of the SWFO-L1 Observatory.

SWFO-L1 will provide NOAA with the continuity of solar wind data and coronal mass ejection imagery, the highest priority for space weather observations of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

The SWFO-L1 satellite, which is planned to launch in 2024 as a rideshare with the NASA Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe, will collect upstream solar wind data and coronal imagery to support NOAA’s mission to monitor and forecast space weather events.

NOAA is responsible for the Space Weather Follow-On program. NASA is the program’s flight system procurement agent, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the lead for this acquisition.

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.

“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

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