Space Weather Collaboration Sealed with Agreement among Federal Agencies

KEY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Interagency Collaboration: NASA, NOAA, NSF, and the U.S. Air Force signed an agreement to enhance cooperation on space weather research and operations.
  • Memorandum of Agreement: Representatives formalized their commitment in a memorandum of agreement, aiming to improve coordination in space weather activities.
  • Research-to-Operations Framework: The goal is to establish better coordination between research, operational forecasts, and user feedback, known as research-to-operations-to-research (R2O2R).
  • Improved Space Weather Preparedness: The agreement focuses on enhancing the nation’s space weather preparedness through better coordination and expanding efforts in observations, research, and modeling.
  • Building on OSTP Framework: The agreement builds upon a framework established by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in March 2022, emphasizing the need for collaboration among the four agencies.
  • NOAA’s Commitment: NOAA is actively involved, with plans to establish a space weather office, launch space weather instruments, and plan successors to ensure continuous service, addressing challenges identified by the Space Weather Advisory Group.
Signing of the Memorandum of Agreement for Space Weather Research-to-Operations-to-Research Collaboration, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2023. Left to right: NASA Nicola Fox, Ph.D., NOAA Ken Graham, NOAA Stephen Volz, Ph.D., NSF Timothy Patten, Ph.D. (on behalf of Alexandra Isern, Ph.D.), DAF Major General Mark Slocum (on behalf of Lieutenant General James C. Slife), and DAF Dr. Joel Mozer (on behalf of Lisa Costa, Ph.D.). (Image credit: Bob Hyatt, NOAA)
Signing of the Memorandum of Agreement for Space Weather Research-to-Operations-to-Research Collaboration, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2023. Left to right: NASA Nicola Fox, Ph.D., NOAA Ken Graham, NOAA Stephen Volz, Ph.D., NSF Timothy Patten, Ph.D. (on behalf of Alexandra Isern, Ph.D.), DAF Major General Mark Slocum (on behalf of Lieutenant General James C. Slife), and DAF Dr. Joel Mozer (on behalf of Lisa Costa, Ph.D.). (Image credit: Bob Hyatt, NOAA)

In a significant step towards enhancing the nation’s preparedness for space weather events, representatives from four federal agencies – NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Air Force – gathered at the White House on December 7 to formally sign a memorandum of agreement. The agreement aims to foster collaboration in the realm of space weather research and its practical application in operational forecasts.

Agencies Align for Enhanced Space Weather Preparedness

The primary objective outlined in the agreement is to streamline the transition of space weather research into operational forecasts, establishing a continuous loop of feedback from operational applications back into research—an approach collectively known as research-to-operations-to-research (R2O2R). By doing so, the agencies hope to enhance coordination, particularly in areas such as moving space weather models and forecasts from researchers to operational platforms and incorporating feedback from users of these models and forecasts.

Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service within NOAA, emphasized the shared goal of advancing the nation’s space weather preparedness through improved coordination and the expansion of existing efforts to enhance space weather observations, research, and modeling.

This memorandum builds upon a framework introduced by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in March 2022, which aimed to coordinate the advancement of research efforts in the aforementioned agencies into practical space weather operations. The framework also called for the development of a collaborative agreement among the four agencies, culminating in the recent signing.

Earlier this year, the Space Weather Advisory Group highlighted the need for NOAA to enhance its R2O2R activities. While acknowledging substantial progress in implementing the framework, the report suggested that NOAA could further address challenges, including the creation of “operations-ready” research data and the improvement of model maturity.

Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (left), signs the Memorandum of Agreement for Space Weather alongside Ken Graham, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Weather Services (right). This quad-agency agreement will further research and operations of space weather to improve space weather predictions and preparedness while also mitigating its impacts. (Image: NOAA / Robert Hyatt)
Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (left), signs the Memorandum of Agreement for Space Weather alongside Ken Graham, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Weather Services (right). This quad-agency agreement will further research and operations of space weather to improve space weather predictions and preparedness while also mitigating its impacts. (Image: NOAA / Robert Hyatt)

NOAA’s Strategic Plan: Space Weather Office and Resilient Missions

Space weather has gained increasing prominence within NOAA, with plans to establish a dedicated space weather office, as revealed by Steve Volz, director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. This initiative includes deploying the Compact Coronagraph space weather instrument on the upcoming GOES-U weather satellite (scheduled for launch in April) and the Space Weather Follow-On (SWFO) mission, set to launch in early 2025 at the sun-Earth L-1 Lagrange point.

During a presentation at the fall meeting of the National Academies’ Committee on Earth Sciences and Applications from Space on November 29, Volz outlined NOAA’s strategy to plan successors to SWFO, designated as L-1 A and B, scheduled for launch in 2029 and 2032, respectively. Having two spacecraft is deemed essential to mitigate service interruptions in the event of malfunctions, given the current reliance on spacecraft that have exceeded their design life.

Volz emphasized the agency’s goal to transition from a one-failure to a two-failures-to-a-gap situation for space weather, a strategic move towards achieving a resilient posture over the next decade. This comprehensive plan aims to ensure continuous operational and spare missions at the critical L-1 Lagrange point for essential solar measurements.

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Source(s): NOAA; NASA

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