space debris (NASA)

NOAA seeks situational awareness to protect weather satellites

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking for a way to keep its satellites and related data from being damaged by other spacecraft or orbital debris, which "would have profound impact on domestic and international commerce, possibly threatening lives and property from gaps in critical meteorological data and products," the agency said.

To get that space intelligence, NOAA issued a request for quotations for a Web-based Space Situational Awareness (WSSA) service that can accurately determine the current and future locations of the agency's space-based assets and to compare that information with the locations of nearby objects managed by other institutions and agencies. When a close approach is identified and confirmed, one of the two objects must take appropriate action to prevent a collision.

Damage caused by space debris is increasingly likely as the number of satellites escalates.

Erik Krag, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office, told The Guardian that there are 150 million pieces of space debris larger than 1 mm -- which is the size of the object that recently damaged a 40-centimetre-wide area on one of the solar panels of ESA's Sentinel-1A Earth observation satellite. That collision pushed the satellite into a slightly different orbit and orientation and disrupted its electrical power.

Given the growing numbers of geostationary, low-earth orbiting satellites and the space debris that can result, NOAA said the enhanced capabilities realized by subscription to WSSA services is considered an effective return on investment in protecting its critical meteorological infrastructure.

The anticipated award date is July 1, and more information on this RFQ is available online.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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