NOAA awards contract to private company for solar observatory

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Capitalism in space: NOAA today awarded a contract to the private company Xplore to study development of a commercial solar observatory at the Earth-Sun L1 point.

The press release at the link is somewhat vague about the contract. It appears to be a study to see if Xplore’s proposed Xcraft spacecraft can be used as platform for such a solar observatory, not an actual contract to build the observatory.

Regardless, this award is a strong indicator that the Trump administration is applying pressure at NOAA to get it out of the business of building weather satellites and instead be a customer buying such satellites from the private sector. The weather agency has been, like NASA earlier this decade, resistant to this concept, with its bureaucracy wanting to retain control over everything. Maybe the success of SpaceX at NASA is now helping to fuel the change at NOAA.

Let us hope so. NOAA’s present fleet of solar observatories in space is years past their due date, with no sign of a replacement fleet. The agency just can’t seem to get its act together to build these satellites. For example, NOAA has been trying and failing to build a new solar observatory to monitor sunspot activity now for more than a decade.

Maybe, like NASA, giving the job to private enterprise might get things going.


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