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Lockheed Imager To Be Launched On NOAA Spacecraft

By | May 22, 2006

      A Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] imager will be launched Wednesday on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-N spacecraft.

      The launch will occur from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

      That Solar X-ray Imager (SXI) instrument was designed and built by Lockheed Martin at its Space Systems Advanced Technology Center (ATC) for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md.

      The SXI, one of a suite of instruments on the GOES-N satellite, will be used to aid NOAA and Air Force personnel in issuing forecasts and alerts of “space weather” conditions, and in developing a better understanding of Sun-related phenomena that affect the Earth’s environment, according to Lockheed.

      Turbulent space weather can affect radio communication on Earth, induce currents in electric power grids and long distance pipelines, cause navigational errors in magnetic guidance systems, upset satellite circuitry and expose astronauts to increased radiation.

      A prototype SXI was developed, tested, and calibrated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in conjunction with GSFC, NOAA, and the Air Force, and launched aboard the GOES-M satellite in July 2001.

      The new SXI on GOES-N has a factor of two greater spatial resolution than the prototype, and like some high-end home video cameras, it has active internal jitter compensation that provides a stable picture even when the spacecraft is moving. Additionally, more sophisticated computer control allows SXI to react automatically to changing solar conditions.

      SXI will observe solar flares, coronal mass ejections, coronal holes and active regions in the X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum from 6 to 60 A (Angstroms). These features are the dominant sources of disturbances in space weather that lead to, for example, geomagnetic storms. SXI also will examine flare properties, newly emerging active regions, and X-ray bright points on the Sun.

      SXI will provide continuous, near real-time observation of the Sun’s corona, acquiring a full-disk image every minute. The images cover a 42 arc-minute field of view with five arc-second pixels.

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