Under the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan and the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow Act, NASA’s role is to provide increased understanding of the fundamental physics of the Sun-Earth system through a variety of space-based observations and modeling, including development of new research and technologies to advances operational and commercial space weather science and technology. This response to SBIR Topic S14.01 Space Weather R2O/O2R Technology Development addresses one of four areas identified for priority development: Space weather forecasting technologies, techniques and applications. Specifically, exploring transition of tools, models, data and knowledge from research to operational environments–including preparation and validation of an existing science model that may be suitable for transition to operational use. The main innovation of the new model is the ability to provide uncertainty estimates in addition to the computation of satellite drag. Satellites are affected by the variability in density and motion of the near-Earth space environment. Drastic changes in the thermosphere’s neutral density, due to geomagnetic storms or other phenomena, result in perturbations of LEO satellite motions through drag on satellite surfaces that can lead to difficulties locating important satellites, temporarily losing track of satellites, and errors in predicting collisions in space. To meet increasing needs of upper atmospheric and space weather conjunction analysis and debris tracking requires improved satellite-drag nowcasts and forecasts in the 150-2000 km altitude region. Orion Space Solutions’ aerodynamic drag-forecast tool, “Dragster,” addresses those needs with well-validated, full-physics atmospheric models and ensemble data assimilation techniques.
NASA’s current operational satellite drag needs are the responsibility of CARA, which provides NASA asset protection and mission support in collaboration with the US Space Force 18 SPCS. Dragster benefits NASA via CARA by outperforming the current operational model, and reducing risk. The Project would benefit NASA’s CCMC for research purposes, and CCMC will help with metrics analysis.
The $400B space economy will be $1T by 2032. The Kessler Effect could result in the closure of a $1T industry. Dragster errors are smaller, and error bars are realistic, therefore spacecraft can fly closer together because the threat of collisions is reduced. Potential customers include government agencies, commercial satellite operators, satellite service industry, insurance companies.