This is a one-year effort to conduct a project design study for a proposed new NSF research facility named GEOScan. Representatives from all relevant science disciplines will be identified and involved in the study, which will result in a conceptual design report for the proposed GEOScan project. Broad scientific input to the study will also be sought through a planned community workshop.

The idea behind the proposed GEOScan project is to utilize the next generation of Iridium satellites. Starting in 2014, Iridium will begin launching its next generation of communication satellites. The new spacecraft will replace Iridium's current constellation of 66 low-earth orbit satellites ? the world's largest commercial satellite system. Known as Iridium NEXT, the new constellation will offer a unique opportunity for hosting additional sensor payloads on the communication satellites for a wide range of Earth observation and other scientific or operational objectives. The constellation will provide continuous, real-time visibility over the entire Earth's surface and its atmosphere. The plan for GEOScan is to fly a small scientific payload, called a sensorPOD, on each of the Iridium satellites. Each sensorPOD will consist of two system sensors that are the same for all payloads plus an additional sensor that will be supplied by an individual investigator. The set of additional (hosted) sensors for GEOScan will be selected through a competitive process. The primary goal of this study is to identify system sensors that provide global data for the highest impact discoveries and yet are of interest to the broadest possible range of geoscience disciplines.

In addition to the scientific objectives, the proposed GEOScan program will pursue a number of broader impacts goals. First, the project will establish a unique and unprecedented collaboration with industry to carry science payloads on commercial satellites. It will also foster collaborations and strengthen ties between university and international researchers across science disciplines, the agencies that fund them and the American space industry. Secondly, the project will provide real-time Earth observing data that enable policy makers with actionable information. Finally, the project will provide front-line training opportunities for the next generation of instrument engineers and Geoscientists via the hosted sensor program.

Project Report

This project gathered the Earth and Space science communities to discuss, decide, and plan how to use constellations of satellites to make ground-breaking geoscience discoveries. Called GEOScan this grass-roots organization lauched a community wide discussion on the scientific value and cost savings associated with commercially hosted constellation science missions. GEOScan, envisioned as a National Science Foundation shared facility, would transmit information from space as a hosted payload on the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation in 2015. Providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to solve critical global science questions that could go unanswered without these real-time measurements. By taking advantage of the unprecedented opportunity provided by Iridium NEXT, this effort analyzed how we can reduce the cost barriers to collecting, transmitting and distributing important scientific information about Earth. Ecologists and climate scientist what to measure when vegetation greens up in spring, and understand Earth’s current state of carbon balance, and whether nature’s ability to sequester increasing CO2 saturate? They also want to measure Earth’s outgoing radiation everywhere all the time to measure the absolute energy balance thought responsible for climate change (Trenberth and Fasullo 2012). Gravity scientists and hydrologists want use GRACE like gravity measurements to track the flow of water on daily time scales to capture the effects of tides, melting and storm run-offs. Space scientists what to perform a CT-Scan on the ionosphere and plasmasphere to finally understand the major reconfigurations that occur during geomagnetic storms. The common theme to all these scientific endeavors is that they require continuous and global remote sensing measurements of Earth and space that can only be achieved by a dense constellation of satellites, such as those provided by Iridium Inc. whose coverage is shown in Figure 1. The GEOScan research effort has resulted in a facility class proposal to NSF and garnered condierable public and scientific atttention with numerous science news artricles written about the effort. Figure 1 The Iridium NEXT constellation would allow scientists to view the Earth everywhere all the time

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)
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Therese Moretto Jorgensen
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Johns Hopkins University
United States
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