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House Infrastructure Bill Includes $173 Million to Improve Space Weather Forecasting

14 Sep 2021, 11:45 UTC
House Infrastructure Bill Includes $173 Million to Improve Space Weather Forecasting
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An artist’s rendering of the Space Weather Follow-on L1 satellite. (Credit: NOAA)

by Douglas MessierManaging Editor

The House Science Committee approved an infrastructure bill that provides an additional $173 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to accelerate the development and launch of the Space Weather Follow-On Lagrange-1 (SWFO-L1) mission. The spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2024, will monitor the solar wind and coronal mass ejections from the Earth-sun L-1 Lagrange point.

Coronal mass ejections from the sun can cause solar storms that disrupt satellites, ground communications, electrical grids, aviation, navigation and other critical infrastructure. A massive geomagnetic storm shorted out telegram systems in 1859 in what is known as the Carrington Event. A similar event today could be devastating to the global economy.

Scientists currently uses three aging spacecraft — Advanced Composition Explorer, Deep Space Climate Observatory, and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) — to monitor the sun’s corona and solar storms. Officials have said the SWFO-L1 mission is a priority given that existing satellites could fail before the new spacecraft is launched.

The measure, which is part of a $3.5 trillion bill, must pass the full House and the Senate. Prospects are uncertain given opposition ...

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