Spy Satellites

Artist rendering of satellites in the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program.

What is happening in the space between the earth and the sun?

In two words: space weather.

New legislation introduced on Friday by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter would direct federal agencies to develop technologies to better able forecast space weather. The Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) Act would also set standards to measure disturbances in space weather.

“The overarching goal is to better coordinate federal research investments with our operational forecasters who provide warnings to impacted industries and ensure our academic, international, and commercial partners are working hand in hand to improve space weather forecasting,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “Space weather can cause great damage to our infrastructure and our economy, and we need to make sure we are all working together to have the best research and prediction capabilities possible.”

One of the most significant space weather events occurred in 2012 when the sun ejected plasma toward the earth’s orbit. The magnetic impacts could have shut down electric grids.

Lloyd's of London estimated that the worst solar storm could black out power to 20 million to 40 million Americans in the northeastern United States, perhaps for years.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is a co-sponsor of the corresponding Senate bill.

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