NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer, which is critical to space-weather forecasting, is nearing its end of life. Satellite operators fear the end could come at any time, according to Irene Klotz of Discovery News.

ACE provides advanced warning of high-energy particles from solar storms and changes in the solar wind. This information is critical for space-weather predictions that help ensure the safety of ISS astronauts, high-latitude airline flights, and future suborbital space travelers as well as unmanned satellites and the terrestrial power grid. Pipelines are also vulnerable, especially those at high latitudes like the Alaska Pipeline.

There is currently no backup for the satellite. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Air Force are hoping to launch a replacement, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), before ACE fails. At the moment, however, the launch its not yet scheduled and the DSCOVR satellite is in storage at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.

This report is especially timely. The news came just as Earth was being hit by the biggest solar storm in years.

X-Class Solar Foare

Written by Astro1 on March 9th, 2012 , Planetary Defense, Space Medicine and Safety

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *