Predicting Space Weather

On reading that title, you might be asking yourself “why in the world would I need to predict space weather?” Well, I’ll tell you. Space weather – the range of high-energy radiation, such as X-rays and gamma rays, that constantly bombard the Earth’s atmosphere – affects the performance of some of your favorite gadgets, like GPS and satellite TV.

With this camera, scientists can predict changes is space weather, allowing for communications companies to compensate for electromagnetic interruptions to their signals. Never again will your Planet of the Apes marathon be spoiled by a bad signal. Oh, and it’ll help the military predict and plan for interruptions in their communications too.

The project – the Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk – is known by a catchy acronym: GOLD.

The GOLD Camera will fly on an SES AMERICOM satellite. Physicist Richard Eastes, who leads the GOLD project, says this is the first time that a NASA instrument has flown on a commercial communications satellite.

This is the second “hosted” payload for an AMERICOM spacecraft just this month. The other was for the Air Force’s CHIRP (Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload).