Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scientists propose first global orbital observation program

Space Daily: A consortium led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is proposing a geoscience program that would give scientists the first continuous real-time look at the Earth's surface and atmosphere through a global network of sensors. Called GEOScan, the program would focus on providing critical data to the global scientific community on topics including climate, atmosphere, oceans, gravity and space weather.

It would be a hosted payload on the Iridium NEXT constellation and use the satellite constellation's real-time data link. GEOScan would establish the first globally networked orbital observation facility and collect data to benefit students, scientists, policy makers and the public.

GEOScan would begin transmitting information from space in 2015. "This is a key opportunity to solve critical global science questions that could go unanswered without these real-time measurements," says APL's Lars Dyrud, chief scientist for GEOScan.

"By taking advantage of the significant opportunity provided by Iridium NEXT - to place a low-cost payload on satellites already headed to space - we can reduce the cost barriers to collecting, transmitting and distributing important scientific information about Earth."

...GEOScan would use a single "SensorPOD" slot on each of the 66-plus NEXT, low-Earth orbiting communications satellites. Only about the size of a shoebox, (7.9 in x 7.9 in x 5.5 in) each the SensorPOD would carry instruments to image the Earth and characterize the space environment.

They would also measure reflected sunlight and infrared radiation to provide the most precise measurements yet for climate models. GEOScan would also enable improved disaster relief and humanitarian assistance efforts by providing affordable real-time imagery....

An Iridium NEXT Schematic including their entire hosted payload bay. Image from website of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

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