Legislation advancing U.S. efforts to upgrade the nation’s ability predict disruptive solar flares and other types of “space weather” would cost over $200 million, a tab that is likely to scuttle the bill given the GOP and Trump Administration’s resistance to spending on actual terrestrial forecasting.
The total cost associate with the proposed Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act is $227 million, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. The cost is made up of launching a coronagraph satellite ($202 million) and operate and maintaining the equipment ($25 million) between 2018 and 2022.
“Other provisions in the bill would codify ongoing activities being carried out by several agencies under the National Space Weather Program,” the CBO states. “In 2016, those agencies spent a total of $160 million on activities related to space weather.”
Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) in January, the legislation was created to upgrade the existing satellite that was developed to monitor solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
It directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop plans to provide a backup for the “aging” Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, described as “ the only currently operating satellite providing imagery of space weather that could impact Earth.”
However, that proposed spending will come under additional scrutiny given the Trump Administration’s plans to slash 17 percent of the NOAA’s existing budget that especially targets the satellite program focused on earth’s climate.
According to reinsurance market Lloyd’s of London, total economic cost for a catastrophic solar storm is estimated at $0.6-2.6 trillion.
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