New Earth and space weather satellite set to launch on November 19th

Ready for launch: CU Boulder instrument suite to assess space weather

From the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER

A multimillion dollar University of Colorado Boulder instrument package expected to help scientists better understand potentially damaging space weather is now slated to launch aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite on Saturday, Nov. 19.

A new satellite mission carrying CU-Boulder space weather instruments is expected to help mitigate damage to satellites and communications systems caused by powerful solar storms. CREDIT NASA

A new satellite mission carrying CU-Boulder space weather instruments is expected to help mitigate damage to satellites and communications systems caused by powerful solar storms. CREDIT NASA

Designed and built by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the instrument suite known as the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) is the first of four identical packages that will fly on four NOAA weather satellites in the coming decade. EXIS will measure energy output from the sun that can affect satellite operations, telecommunications, GPS navigation and power grids on Earth as part of NOAA’s next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites -R Series (GOES-R).

“We are ready for launch and are looking forward to a successful mission,” said LASP Senior Research Scientist Frank Eparvier, principal investigator on the EXIS project. “These extremely sensitive instruments will help scientists better understand solar events and help to mitigate the effects of space weather on Earth.”

NASA’s contract with CU Boulder on behalf of NOAA to design, build, test, deliver and scientifically support the four instrument packages is for roughly $105 million. The GOES-R satellite was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Littleton, Colorado and will be launched on an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance, headquartered in Centennial, Colorado.

EXIS consists of two LASP instruments, including XRS, an X-ray sensor that can determine the strength of solar flares and provide rapid alerts to scientists, said Eparvier. Large solar flares, equivalent to the explosion of millions of atomic bombs, can trigger “proton events” that send charged atomic particles flying off the sun and into Earth’s atmosphere in just minutes. They can damage satellites, trigger radio blackouts and even threaten the health of astronauts by penetrating spacecraft shielding, he said.

“The XRS gives the first alert that a solar flare is occurring, providing NOAA with details on its timing, magnitude and direction within seconds,” said Eparvier.

The second EXIS instrument, EUVS, will monitor solar output in the extreme ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is completely absorbed by Earth’s upper atmosphere, said Eparvier. When the extreme UV light wavelengths penetrate the upper atmosphere during active periods on the sun, they can break apart, ionize and change the properties of the atmosphere through which satellites fly and radio waves propagate.

Fluctuations in extreme UV wavelengths from the sun ionize the upper atmosphere and interfere with communications like cell phones and GPS signals, said Eparvier. In addition, such fluctuations can create satellite drag, causing spacecraft to slowly fall out of orbit and burn up months or years before such events are anticipated.

“Modern technology has made us vulnerable to extreme variations in space weather that can have significant effects on Earth communications,” Eparvier said. “Extreme solar activity can cause problems for power companies all around the world, for example, in part because they all are interconnected.”

NOAA’s GOES satellites are a series of weather satellites that help scientists make timely and accurate weather forecasts. Two GOES satellites are now in geostationary orbit at a height of about 22,000 miles, with one focusing on the east part of the Americas overlapping with another focusing on the west. Satellites in geostationary orbits complete one revolution in the same amount of time it takes for the Earth to rotate once on its polar axis, allowing them to “stare” at a portion of Earth, said Eparvier.

LASP also built key solar instruments for NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission launched in 2012 to study Earth’s radiation belts, and designed and built a $32 million instrument package for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory that launched in 2010.

More than 100 LASP personnel ranging from scientists and engineers to technicians, programmers and students have worked on the EXIS program since 2006. CU Boulder’s LASP will support EXIS on the four NOAA GOES satellite missions through spacecraft integration, testing, launch and commissioning, said Eparvier.

Each instrument package, roughly the size of a large microwave oven and weighing 66 pounds, is three times heavier than normal due to extra shielding that protects them from high-energy particle penetration. LASP’s Mike Anfinson is the EXIS project manager.

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41 thoughts on “New Earth and space weather satellite set to launch on November 19th

  1. Back when cagw was first suggested, there should have been a recognition that for the theory to be proved one way or the other there was a need for more data and of an higher quality than had previously been available. Instead they spent more and more money on computer programmes running GIGO.Hopefully, given thirty years or so of decent data, we may one day be able to give a definitive answer to the question that the alarmists , have faithfully stuck to.

    • Actually, there is plenty of data that completely disproves the CAGW theory. If all federal funding for the Global Warming Industrial Complex were removed, the science would be settled.

      • Where are those data? References, please. We have got to persuade the people who have been convinced of CAGW that it is rubbish, and having the data to show them would be a really good start.

      • Actually it should be incumbent on them to empirically prove their case, which as Malcolm Roberts in Australia has found when he requested CSIRO provide it. Nothing from them so far.

        But in simple terms you just put the flatlining temperature against the rising CO2 for the last 20 years and say ‘How does rising CO2 increase temperature again?’.

  2. I hope this is the future trend, use the money to research of the unknowns rather than using money to reinforce policy decision.

  3. “Modern technology has made us vulnerable to extreme variations in space weather that can have significant effects on Earth communications,” Eparvier said. “Extreme solar activity can cause problems for power companies all around the world, for example, in part because they all are interconnected.”

    The quote is an understatement. If we had another Carrington event the damage would be massive. Civilization would require a reboot, and that could take years.

    Space weather research is important vital.

      • I would open all the breakers and unplug everything. If I had time, I would find a metal bin in which the laptops, phones, and other electronics could be stored.

    • Commie,

      I would say it differently.

      Space weather research monitoring is vital.

      Space weather research can better inform instrument and satellite engineers how to better harden their designs to survive 1 in a 1000 yr solar events. So that research is important to continue. But it is mostly through timely space weather warnings, warnings that come from monitoring, that operators and astronauts can be prepared for the event arrival to Earth within 12 hours of it happening on the sun.

    • This is a NOAA satellite. But, yes, don’t look for any earth science from NASA. Lamar Smith (R-TX) bragged about cutting NASAs earth science budget by 40% at last year’s Heartland conference. More cuts to come.

    • Stick your head in a microwave oven, bypass the door safety interlock, and turn it on for several minutes. That should do it.

      • Weather:
        noun
        1.
        the state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc.

        ===================

        Stick that in your commode and flush it.

  4. ” can trigger “proton events” that send charged atomic particles flying off the sun and into Earth’s atmosphere in just minutes.

    Uh no. This press release was obviously by some PR guy without sufficient technical supervision.

    Maybe about 18 hrs if it is a really, really big event. 48-72 hrs would be a typical big event timeframe that puts protons into Earth’s magnetosheath.

    • The event you refer to are called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and they usually follow solar flares. They do not travel at the speed of light, so we do have some warning from the Sun when they occur, but they do come fast. The really fast blasts come in at 1900 mi/s so that would be about 13 hrs, but those are not common.
      We here on earth live cozily beneath the magnetic blankets above us, but those will get whipped about by these blasts. Any astronauts traveling beyond these blankets, like during the 3 day traverse to the moon or on their way to Mars, are hosed. Light weight radiation shielding is a driving need for human space flight.

      • My contention is that 800 day manned space flight to Mars isn’t going to happen for precisely that reason, and the even deadlier GCRs will increase during solar minimums. Oven or frying pan? Doesn’t matter. You’re cooked either way.

        It would be a radiological death sentence for the astronauts, both the to-from transit, and the time on the Martian surface. I got a kick out of the Mars stranded movie (Matt Damon character) and the book. They were entertaining yes. But Living in a canvass tent, GCRs don’t care.

        Elon Musk and NASA are just not being openly honest with the public on how lethal the beyond LEO radiation levels are. “Follow the money” is the reason.

      • A plan to develop the Earth/Mars system:

        Use “cycling spacestations” as your mode of transportation to and from Earth/Mars orbit. An Earth/Mars cycling spacestation would be put in an orbit that takes it from near Earth orbit, to near Mars orbit.

        Once placed in this orbit, it would cycle endlessly between Earth orbit and Mars orbit without requiring any additional propellants, and all you have to do is step on as it comes by the Earth, and get a free ride to Mars, where you will arrive in about nine months or so.

        To protect the cycling spacestation inhabitants from lethal space radiation, you would coat the outside of your living quarters with water ice a meter thick reducing radiation levels to lower than Earth background radiation, inside the habitation module.

        You could put multiple cycling spacestations in an Earth/Mars orbit, equally spaced out, and depending on how many you use, you could have a cycling spacestation swinging by the Earth every few months to pick up crew or supplies.

        You would need an orbital transfer vehicle stationed in Earth orbit and one in Mars orbit, to rendezvous with the cycling spacestations as they approach.

        If you want Earth-equivalent gravity while traveling to and from Mars, yu could get two cycling spacestations (or one cycling spacestation and an equivalent dead weight, such as water ice), separate them by a mile-long cable, spin them around their common center of gravity, at one revolution per minute, and this will produce Earth-equivalent “gravity” inside the habitat modules. You have just eliminated the two biggest obstacles to humans living and working in space: lethal radiation, and zero gravity.

        You can lift the water for your radiation shield to orbit using launch vehicles, which is why a heavy-lift launcher comes in handy. Or, what will probably happen eventually, is we will discover water on a nearby asteriod or on the Moon, and we will use that to fuel our Mars development program.

        At Mars, the first thing to do is to establish a base on Mars’ moon, Phobos. Land a habitat module on the surface and cover it with Phobos soil sufficient enough to protect from radiation (or maybe Phobos has a little water we can use:). On Phobos, you won’t have Earth-equivalent gravity, but you will have radiation protection.

        I think the human race will eventually build huge cylindrical habitats in space capable of holding millions of people, and they will be covered by water ice protection. Water ice seems to be the material of choice for such things.

        Here’s a pertinent link:

        http://space.stackexchange.com/questions/1336/what-thickness-depth-of-water-would-be-required-to-provide-radiation-shielding-i

      • You don’t need to sheild the entire space craft, just an area big enough for the crew to shelter in until the radiation passes.

      • You really need to shield the entire living quarters when in space, if you are going to be staying for the long term. The space station is not shielded very well, and the astronauts onboard absorb a lot of radiation just living in space, even when the space weather is mild.

    • Send Obama your thanks then. This satellite was developed and launched under him. Budgetary support from him, delays and budget cuts from the GOP in congress.

      • @ Robert, From the article: “Designed and built by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the instrument suite known as the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) is the first of four identical packages that will fly on four NOAA weather satellites in the coming decade.”

        I don’t see Obama’s name anywhere. And until we find out how and who actually funded this particular part of the satellite ( It is a package attached to a larger instrument) Hey it could have been any large power company that wants to find out the effects of CMEs or other solar events that could affect the grid, I would quit tooting his horn.

      • If something good happens while Obama is president, he gets credit.
        You acolytes are so cute in your hero worship.

  5. “… determine the strength of solar flares and provide rapid alerts to scientists”. Not much use telling scientists. Can we have an early-warning system to notify those who can do somthing about it?

    “Large solar flares, equivalent to the explosion of millions of atomic bombs, …” Please restate in Hiroshimas.

    • Jim , I think there maybe aps available to do just that I am no expert but check on the Solar Ham site and the Space Weather site, there may be something there that can point you in the right direction.

  6. Thanks Anthony.
    Almost unbelievable them amount of data we are able to obtain, from the multitude of satellites.
    For a list of the current and future data products available for this GOES-R, use the link below.
    Phenomenal

    GOES-R will make available 34 meteorological, solar and space weather products. An additional 31 products may be made available as future capabilities for the GOES-R Series. For additional information about these products, click the links below or visit the baseline and future capabilities product pages. For sample datasets, please visit the sample data page. Fact sheets are available for several baseline products, as well as information about the Algorithm Working Group.
    http://www.goes-r.gov/products/overview.html

    Lightening mappers are so cool.
    Below is a video, from current ground based lightening mappers simulating the new GOES-R capability.

    Anyone know if we have this lightening capabilty for the Global Oceanic equatorial region?

  7. The answer is, we are working on it.

    WWLLN
    World Wide Lightning Location Network
    To cover the whole world by sensors spaced uniformly about 1000 km apart would require roughly 500 sensors. If spaced 3000 km apart, we would need “only” around 50 to 60 sensors. Presently we have 40 WWLLN sensors, and we are in the process of expanding to 60 sensors within the next year or two.
    http://wwlln.net/new/network/

    Current real time satellite data map. (with some programmable features)
    http://wwlln.net/new/map/lightning_map.html

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