Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




SOLAR SCIENCE
High-Voltage Transmission Lines to Act as Antenna in First-of-its-Kind NASA Space-Weather Project
by Lori Keesey for Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD (SPX) Apr 25, 2014


Scientist Antti Pulkkinen is using high-voltage power transmission lines as a very large antenna to measure a space weather-related phenomenon. Image courtesy NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages in the past.

Heliophysicist Antti Pulkkinen of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and his team are installing scientific substations beneath high-voltage power transmission lines operated by Virginia's Dominion Virginia Power this summer to measure in real-time a phenomenon known as geomagnetically induced currents (GICs).

"This is the first time we have used the U.S. high-voltage power transmission system as a science tool to map large-scale GICs," Pulkkinen said. "This application will allow unprecedented, game-changing data gathering over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales."

In addition to gathering data important to the power industry - especially if it's expanded nationwide as currently planned - the project will allow heliophysicists to "reverse engineer" the data to learn more about the conditions in Earth's upper atmosphere that lead to the generation of GICs during severe space weather events, Pulkkinen said, adding he is now developing computer algorithms to extract that data for scientific research. "Not only will this benefit the utility industry, it also benefits science," he said.

Solar Storms the Culprit
GICs typically occur one-to-three days after the sun unleashes a coronal mass ejection, or CME, a gigantic bubble of charged particles that can carry up to 10 billion tons of matter. CMEs can accelerate to several million miles per hour as they race across space.

If a CME slams into Earth's magnetosphere, the impact causes electromagnetic fluctuations, which result in geomagnetic storms at Earth. These storms increase electric currents that in turn, drive the fluctuations in Earth's magnetic field near the ground. These surface currents can flow through any large-scale conductive structure, including power lines, oil and gas pipelines, undersea communications cables, telephone and telegraph networks, and railways.

An extreme example of a GIC occurrence was the great magnetic storm of March 1989 - one of the largest disturbances of the 20th century. Rapid variations in the geomagnetic field led to intensely induced electric fields at the Earth's surface. This electric field caused electrical currents to flow through conducting structures - in this case, the Canadian Hydro-Quebec power grid. The excess current collapsed the transmission system, causing the loss of electric power to more than six million people.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, had the blackout occurred in the Northeastern U.S., the economic impact could have exceeded $10 billion, to say nothing of the deleterious impact on emergency services and reduction in public safety.

Space weather events can have a range of effects including disrupting communications and navigation systems, damaging satellite instrumentation, and even potentially corroding pipeline steel. The impact on the nation's electric grid is perhaps the highest concern at the moment, Pulkkinen said.

"It's the hottest topic out there right now," he said, adding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is now developing standards to mitigate the GIC threat. "We need to better understand how these events affect the U.S. power grid," he added.

His pilot program is designed to help find out, Pulkkinen said.

Funded by R and D Programs
Funded by NASA's Center Innovation Fund and Goddard's Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program, the team is creating three substations, all equipped with commercially available magnetometers capable of precisely measuring the variable magnetic fields associated with GICs.

Once inserted inside a protective, watertight housing unit, designed by Goddard engineer Todd Bonalsky, the team will bury the gear four feet into the ground - two directly below Dominion Virginia Power's high-voltage lines and the third one-to-two miles away. The latter will provide reference measurements.

"In essence, we're tapping into a very large antenna, Pulkkinen said. "The high-voltage lines are the antennae. During solar storms, violent changes in the electric current occur in near space, which then are sensed by the transmission lines."

Ubiquitous iPad Finds Scientific Application
To command and control the magnetometers, Pulkkinen's team is using another IRAD-developed technology, LabNotes. This iPad application, developed by Goddard engineers Carl Hostetter and Troy Adams, will time tag and geo-locate the magnetometers' data, and then deliver the information to a server via a cellular data network, Hostetter explained. In addition to sending one sample per second, the LabNotes-equipped iPad-Mini also could monitor the data and send a text message should an event warrant attention.

"Now that everyone is walking around with this type of computer, which is more powerful than some supercomputers of 15 years ago, we thought we may as well use it for scientific purposes," Hostetter said, adding that its relatively small size and low-power consumption make it ideal for science gathering. Although Pulkkinen's team is the first to actually use the application, Hostetter said the technology has interested a number of other projects, including one involving agricultural needs in Africa.

The Goal: Nationwide Coverage

The project's objective, Pulkkinen added, is making the equipment as inexpensive and versatile as possible. Although the pilot project begins with only three substations, Pulkkinen wants to ultimately deploy hundreds across the nation. "We envision that after a one-to-two-year pilot phase, long-term funding from a multi-agency collaboration and public-private partnerships will make this happen."

"Impacts to the nation's power grid are currently the highest space-weather concern in the U.S.," he added. With federal regulations on the horizon, Pulkkinen said the measurements would help define the most effective techniques for mitigating GIC threats.

.


Related Links
Goddard Technology News
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





SOLAR SCIENCE
NASA's MMS Observatories Stacked For Testing
Greenbelt, MD (SPX) Apr 23, 2014
Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories - also called mini-stacks - at a time, to construct a full four-stack of observatories. Next, the MMS four-stack will be carefully transported from their Goddard cleanroom to a special vibration facilit ... read more


SOLAR SCIENCE
John C. Houbolt, Unsung Hero of the Apollo Program, Dies at Age 95

NASA Completes LADEE Mission with Planned Impact on Moon's Surface

Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon

Russian Federal Space Agency is elaborating Moon exploration program

SOLAR SCIENCE
Mission to Mars

Opportunity Rover Driving Up To Crater Rim

NASA Rover Opportunity's Selfie Shows Clean Machine

NASA's Human Path to Mars

SOLAR SCIENCE
NASA Selects Commercial Crew Program Manager

NASA Names Six New Members to Advisory Council

NASA Innovative Advanced Concept Program Seeks Phase II Proposals

Go Big or Go Home - Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Doing Both, and More

SOLAR SCIENCE
China issues first assessment on space activities

China launches experimental satellite

Tiangong's New Mission

"Space Odyssey": China's aspiration in future space exploration

SOLAR SCIENCE
Astronauts Complete Short Spacewalk to Replace Backup Computer

No Official Confirmation of NASA Severing Ties with Russian Space Agency

Astronauts Prep for Spacewalk as Mission Managers Evaluate Busy Schedule

Dragon Cargo Craft Launch Scrubbed; Station Crew Preps for Spacewalk

SOLAR SCIENCE
SpaceX sues US Air Force over satellite contracts

Launcher build-up begins for Arianespace's fifth Ariane 5 mission to orbit an ATV

Vega for third Arianespace mission, carrying Earth observation spacecraft

45th Space Wing supports third SpaceX Launch for ISS Resupply mission

SOLAR SCIENCE
An Earth-sized planet that might hold liquid water

Solved: Mysteries of a Nearby Planetary System's Dynamics

Astronomers discover Earth-sized planet in habitable zone

Exoplanets Soon to Gleam in the Eye of NESSI

SOLAR SCIENCE
Close collaboration in optical communication between space and Earth

Steering chemical reactions with laser pulses

Space terrorism, floating debris pose threats to US

AVX To Present At The 2014 Space Parts Working Group




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.