Space Weather Projects

AFRL C/NOFS: communication and navigation outage forecasting for the Air Force

The United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Space Vehicles Directorate’s Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) is being developed to demonstrate a technique for locating and forecasting scintillations in the low latitude ionosphere. Scintillations are caused by naturally occurring irregularities and lead to fluctuations in communication signals, delayed signal acquisition, and decreased satellite-to-ground message throughput. C/NOFS will alert users of impending UHF and L-band satellite communication outages, Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation degradations, radar tracking errors, and will provide improved estimates of scintillation probability, define regions of active scintillation, and forecast regions of scintillation hours before its onset.

Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) is working with AFRL researchers as the primary data interaction and fusion contractor contributing to the design and development of the C/NOFS data center infrastructure from the initial concept through current operational capability.

Scintillation Network Decision Aid (SCINDA)

The Scintillation Network Decision Aid (SCINDA) tool is part of a process that results in simple tri-color maps of disturbances over the equator and the corresponding areas of likely communication outages. Such maps help scientists to better understand how scintillation structures develop, and enable operators to determine practical strategies for maintaining reliable communications. The data has been combined with the C/NOFS modeling and observations to produce nowcasts and forecasts of scintillation regions.

SCINDA also allows the operator to find a desired communication link with the necessary operational information that is updated daily. The SCINDA computer model then displays color-coded communication pathways between ground stations and satellites: green if clear or red if not. Alternatively, the model can generate two-dimensional maps showing the projection of scintillation activity from a specified satellite over an entire theater of operations.

AER’s contribution has been the development of the ground station software, data processing and graphics related to product generation for SCINDA.

AF-GEOSpace near-Earth space environment models for satellite operations

AF-GEOSpace software is a suite of near-Earth space environment models currently operational in the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) Space Weather Analysis Forecast System, which makes three-dimensional space environment forecasts and specifications vital to the safety of satellites in orbit. Major ionospheric variations can disrupt satellite signals and cause communication problems. Satellite operators need to know of these and other space hazards that satellites can expect to encounter in proposed orbits. AF-GEOSpace is used for orbit selection and to design systems based on space weather factors.

AFRL is the primary research center for AF-GEOSpace, and AER team members have participated in the modeling efforts and data product generation on the project for the last decade. The application originated as an Air Force situational awareness tool for the space weather community and has evolved into a tool used in spacecraft development and sensor specification definition.