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Readiness for the Upcoming Solar Maximum
DOD (and in particular the Air Force and the Navy) is both a user of space environment information and a sponsor of related research and monitoring; and
DOE is an additional user and sponsor concerned with national security aspects of the space environment.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA has built an excellent multisatellite observatory to explore the Sun-Earth Connection; to yield maximum dividends, this investment should be exploited through the upcoming solar maximum. Moreover, continuing this observatory will aid construction of the International Space Station, which will require many extravehicular activities throughout the period of the solar maximum when the space environment will be disturbed. It is unlikely that a Sun-Earth Connection “great observatory” like the current one will be available in the foreseeable future, and NASA's projected budgets and plans do not include such an observatory for the solar maximum of cycle 24. Thus, the timing is right for the current observatory to have its maximum impact on the science issues it was designed to address.
The committees recommend that, at a minimum, NASA continue the existing International Solar-Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) program and related operating missions (ACE, Ulysses, Yohkoh, FAST, SAMPEX, and the Voyagers) through the upcoming solar maximum. This includes acquiring high-quality data (e.g., through the Deep Space Network) and then validating, archiving, interpreting, and publishing them.
The committees also recommend the timely launches of TRACE, TIMED, and IMAGE and encourage U.S. participation in Equator-S and Cluster, so that spacecraft capable of making unique contributions will be available during this unprecedented solar maximum observational campaign.
Finally, the committees recommend that a dedicated guest investigator program be initiated to complement the existing program during the solar maximum. Such a program would allow all selected investigators to have full use of the collected Sun-Earth Connection data to address the problems of the origin of solar activity and its effects in the solar system, especially its effects on Earth.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA is the leader of the nation's space environment monitoring program and a cornerstone of the interagency National Space Weather Program (NSWP). The agency has the unique responsibilities of distributing high-quality geophysical data to a broad-based national and international community and providing reliable space weather forecasts to the civilian sector. It is also the agency responsible for improving an operational space weather monitoring and forecasting system. NOAA played a key role in arranging for the research community to receive real-time data transmissions from ACE. However, NOAA resources have not been available for translating modern data-based or theoretical research models into improved monitoring and forecasting tools. The absence of a NOAA commitment to this unique and critical role will have a fundamental impact on the success of the NSWP.