HomeNewsArticle Display

System-impact product output revolutionizes space weather forecasts

LOS ANGELES AFB, CA -- Predicting the harmful effects of space weather on a specific United States military asset or mission has been advanced with the delivery of a prototype, consisting of five computer-generated products, which combine environmental information with system specifications and thresholds to provide real-time impact data to the war- fighter.

Initiated by the Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., in 2003, the Space Situational Awareness Environmental Effects Fusion System project was developed cooperatively by the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, and the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate, Kirtland AFB, N.M.

"We have delivered the SEEFS product prototypes to the Space and Missile Systems Center for their development of the operational versions," said Stephen Quigley, space physicist, assigned to AFRL's Space Vehicles Directorate (organization's division at Hanscom AFB, Mass.) and serving as AFRL liaison to the program. "Currently, the prototype products are being readied for use in real-time operations and that should occur by the end of 2007."

SEEFS' genesis originated in 1999 and 2000 with the AFRL-led Operational Space Environment Network Display, which involves four software products that compile and model space environment and asset data to notify combatant commanders of possible communication outages and other problems impacting the mission. OpSEND contains the following products: High-Frequency Illumination that measures signal strength received on the ground from specific ground HF transmitters; Global Positioning System Single Frequency Error, featuring a map of GPS navigation inaccuracies in meters; Radar Auroral Clutter, which alerts the user to potential radar false targets due to space weather; and Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communication Scintillation that quantifies the fading of signals as they move through the ionosphere (extending 60 to 600 miles above the earth's surface). Currently, these impact products, implemented and updated every 30 minutes at the Air Force Weather Agency, Offutt AFB, Neb., provide only image outputs. In 2003, AFSPC, a primary customer of space environment products, tasked SMC and AFRL to create five new system-impact products as part of the SEEFS project, which would offer enhanced real-time nowcast and forecast capability to the combatant commanders.

"SEEFS consists of the five software system-impact products output, along with a higher-level decision aid. Aside from their increase in overall capabilities, accuracy and forecasting, one big difference with SEEFS, as compared to the four older products, is the addition of text file outputs," said Mr. Quigley. "This is a huge benefit because the text output files provide valuable information the customers can integrate directly into their various systems."

With a $1.2 million budget, the AFRL team, with assistance from SMC, worked during the next two years to develop the five SEEFS products and accomplish research for a sixth and separate portion of the project involving the detrimental consequences of scintillation, or signal strength fluctuations due to the ionosphere, on GPS dual frequency navigation.

The five components of SEEFS include an upgrade to RAC; an enhancement to the UHF SATCOM Scintillation product; the Solar Radio Burst Effects model, which predicts sun-caused radio frequency interference; Radar Scintillation that forecasts the effects of ionospheric scintillation on radar; and the Satellite Charge/ Discharge product that predicts when a satellite's operations may be impacted by electrical activity in the magnetosphere - about 150 to over 30,000 miles above our planet.

The SEEFS prototypes will be provided to the space portion of the Distributed Mission Operations at Schriever AFB, Colo., by the end of this year for initial implementation and application in training and exercises. Once an operational version of SEEFS is deemed ready, it will be provided to the Joint Space Operations Center, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to enhance its mission.

"With the SEEFS products, space environmental operations are going from providing the warfighter with obscure and esoteric environmental physics data to real-time integrated and actionable information on how that environment impacts their assets and mission," said Mr. Quigley.