[Via Satellite 04-15-2015] The University of Colorado has awarded a five-year contract to SES Government Solutions (SES GS) to host a NASA-funded payload on board the SES 14 satellite. The primary purpose of the Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission is to modernize the understanding of the space environment by filling the critical gap in knowledge of Sun-Earth connections. The contract includes satellite construction, launch and two years of on-orbit operations, with options to extend on an annual basis. The satellite has a life expectancy of 15 years. Launching in 2017, SES 14 will replace SES’s NSS 806 satellite at 47.5/48 degrees west.
The hosted payload will transmit data of the Sun’s impact on the Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere from Geostationary (GEO) orbit. Both of these layers of the Earth’s upper atmosphere are very sensitive to space weather events and space climate, with potential societal impacts. Uncertainties in the thermosphere are a primary source of uncertainty for operating satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). Fluctuations in the ionosphere interfere with signals from communications and global positioning satellites.
“This mission will be the first to make images of the temperature and composition changes over a hemisphere. It’s something that scientists have wanted since the beginning of space exploration,” Richard Eastes, principal investigator at the University of Central Florida for the GOLD mission, said.