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Products To Revolutionize Space Weather Forecasts

"With the SEEFS products, space environmental operations are going from providing the warfighter with obscure and esoteric environmental physics data to real-time integrated and actionable information on how that environment impacts their assets and mission," - Stephen Quigley.
by Michael P. Kleiman
Kirtland AFB NM (AFPN) Aug 24, 2006
Predicting the harmful effects of space weather on a U.S. military asset or mission has been advanced with the delivery of a prototype that combines environmental information with system specifications and thresholds.

The prototype, which consists of five computer-generated products, provides real-time impact data to the warfighter.

Initiated by the Air Force Space Command in 2003, the Space Situational Awareness Environmental Effects Fusion System, or SEEFS, project was developed by the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., and the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate here.

"We have delivered the SEEFS product prototypes to the Space and Missile Systems Center for (its) development of the operational versions," said Stephen Quigley, a space physicist at Hanscom AFB, Mass., assigned to AFRL's Space Vehicles Directorate. He is serving as AFRL liaison to the program. "The prototype products are being readied for use in real-time operations, and that should occur by the end of 2007."

SEEFS originated in 1999 and 2000 with the AFRL-led Operational Space Environment Network Display, or OpSEND. This display involves four software products that compile and model space environment and asset data to notify combatant commanders of possible communication outages and other problems impacting the mission.

OpSEND contains the following products: high-frequency illumination that measures signal strength received on the ground from specific ground HF transmitters; Global Positioning System single frequency error, featuring a map of GPS navigation inaccuracies in meters; radar auroral clutter, which alerts the user to potential radar false targets due to space weather; and ultra high frequency satellite communication scintillation that quantifies the fading of signals as they move through the ionosphere (extending 60 to 600 miles above the earth's surface).

These impact products, implemented and updated every 30 minutes at the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB, Neb., provide only image outputs.

As a primary customer of space environment products, AFSPC in 2003 tasked SMC and AFRL to create five new system-impact products as part of the SEEFS project, which would offer enhanced real-time nowcast and forecast capability to combatant commanders.

"SEEFS consists of the five software system-impact products output, along with a higher-level decision aid. Aside from their increase in overall capabilities, accuracy and forecasting, one big difference with SEEFS, as compared to the four older products, is the addition of text file outputs," Mr. Quigley said. "This is a huge benefit because the text output files provide valuable information the customers can integrate directly into their various systems."

The AFRL team, with assistance from SMC, worked during the next two years to develop the five SEEFS products on a $1.2 million budget. The team also accomplished research for a sixth and separate portion of the project involving the detrimental consequences of scintillation, or signal strength fluctuations due to the ionosphere, on GPS dual frequency navigation.

The five components of SEEFS include: an upgrade to radar auroral clutter; an enhancement to the UHF SATCOM scintillation product; the solar radio burst effects model, which predicts sun-caused radio frequency interference; radar scintillation that forecasts the effects of ionospheric scintillation on radar; and the satellite charge/discharge product that predicts when a satellite's operations may be impacted by electrical activity in the magnetosphere, about 150 to over 30,000 miles above our planet.

The SEEFS prototypes will be provided to the space portion of the Distributed Mission Operations at Schriever AFB, Colo., by the end of this year for initial implementation and application in training and exercises. Once an operational version of SEEFS is deemed ready, it will be provided to the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to enhance its mission.

"With the SEEFS products, space environmental operations are going from providing the warfighter with obscure and esoteric environmental physics data to real-time integrated and actionable information on how that environment impacts their assets and mission," Mr. Quigley said.

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