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As the world moves into the twenty-first century, our civilization is becoming increasingly dependent on technology which is vulnerable to conditions in the space environment: space weather.  
  A photo of the Southern Lights taken by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991. Photo courtesy of NASA.

To prepare ourselves to deal with these vulnerabilities, several U. S. government agencies have developed a program called the National Space Weather Program (NSWP). "Space weather" refers to conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere that can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and can endanger human life or health. The National Space Weather Program will:

  • Assess and document the impacts of space weather
  • Identify customer needs
  • Set priorities
  • Determine agency roles
  • Coordinate interagency efforts and resources
  • Ensure exchange of information and plans
  • Encourage and focus research
  • Facilitate transition of research results into operations
  • Foster education of customers and the public

The overarching goal of the National Space Weather Program is to achieve an active, synergistic, interagency system to provide timely, accurate, and reliable space environment observations, specifications, and forecasts within the next 10 years.
The draft of the NSWP Implementation Plan can be downloaded from the NSWP web page.

Agency Roles and Missions

Department of Commerce (DOC)

  Within DOC, NOAA has the mission of describing and predicting Earth's environment. NOAA's Space environment Center hosts an operational forecast center and research activities. The forecast center, operated jointly with the US Air Force, provides space weather forecasts and warnings to users in government and industry and to the general public.

Department of Defense (DOD)

  The Air Force and the Navy conduct reseearch and development to minimize adverse space weather impacts on operational readiness and to minimize the resources neeeded to restore these capabilities. DOD develops operational models of the soler-terrestrial system and develops and flight-tests new sensors.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

  NSF is responsible for maintaining the health of basic research in all areas of the atmospheric sciences. The Foundation supports theoretical, observational, and numerical modeling research with the goals of increasing fundamental understanding of space environment processes and imporving space weather predictive capability.

National Aronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

  NASA will continue its traditional role of space exploration and study of the solar-terrestrial system. NASA's missions in space physics, current and planned, are designed to fulfill important complementary requirements: to answer specific scientific questions; to improve and advance our empirical understanding of events and conditions in space; and to develop and use new technology.

Department of the Interior (DOI)

  Within DOI, the US Geological Survey (USGS) manages a growing international network of 60 or more geomagnetic sensors (INTERMAGNET), many of which contribute data in real-time to the USAF forecast center for hourly computations of geomagnetic indices. The data are also valuable input to ionospheric and magnetospheric forecasting models.

Department of Energy (DOE)

  Within DOE, Defense Programs supports research concerned with space weather in the context of its missions regarding nuclear event detection by satellite surveillance. Programs in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy are concerned with space weather issues regarding possible impacts on electrical energy transmission. Research programs in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences are concerned with fundamental aspects of solar- terrestrial interactions.

  The Space Weather Center is brought to you by the Space Science Institute as part of the National Space Weather Program. Funding is provided by NASA and the National Science Foundation.  

Copyright 1998-1999 Space Science Institute, all rights reserved
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