NOAA eyes solar wind data

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to reduce the government's cost of collecting information about sunspots and other solar events by purchasing the data from private companies using smaller, cheaper sensors.

The agency is seeking to hire a vendor to study the status of commercial equipment for gathering information about solar flares. According to agency procurement information provided by Input, NOAA could achieve advantages in its schedule for providing the solar wind data it is required to gather by using commercial equipment and services.

The government now gathers much of its solar wind data from sensors on NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft.

NASA launched ACE in 1997. The spacecraft now orbits the sun at a location that is about 1 percent of the Earth's distance from the Sun. Its location at the L1 libration point is an area of gravitational equilibrium between Earth and the Sun that provides a stable vantage point for ACE's six high-resolution sensors and three monitoring instruments. The sensors and instruments sample passing solar wind and galactic particles, according to the ACE program.

'When reporting space weather, ACE can provide an advance warning (about one hour) of geomagnetic storms that can overload power grids, disrupt communications on Earth, and present a hazard to astronauts,' according to NASA.

Information about the procurement is available online at www.fedbizopps.gov.

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