Today a group of industry leaders gather to discuss the significance of Earth observation at the 28th National Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Raytheon plays a significant role in not only the acquisition of Earth observations, but in processing and disseminating information in support of national and economic security and the safety of our citizens. Lynn Dugle, president of Raytheons Intelligence and Information Systems business, shares her thoughts.
Q: What do you think are some of the key elements or strategies for providing more accurate and timely information to decision makers?
A: To best help decision makers, we need to accomplish three things capture and transmit data timely; ensure adequate coverage by using sensors in various domains; and provide the important analytics to translate the data into information. Success in these key areas has huge benefits to the defense and security of our country, our economy and our ability to protect our citizens from the ravages of extreme weather.
Todays instruments collect massive amounts of information, and when you have a broad space to ground sensor network, the quantity of information is mind-boggling. Simply sensing all of the information isnt enough; it is critical to have an infrastructure that is capable of collecting, storing, managing, processing, disseminating and visualizing all of this information in an efficient and effective manner.
When we consider the importance of the timely data polar orbiting satellites deliver, the benefits are measured in billions of dollars, the preservation of our national security and the lives of our citizens. Polar-orbiting satellites provide critical data for 2-10 day long-term forecasts, which among other things, are imperative for troop deployments, planning military operations and providing citizens with early warnings for impending weather events.
The best example that comes to mind in regards to timeliness is Raytheons next generation Common Ground System (CGS) for the Joint Polar Satellite System. The system provides the best data delivery timeliness in polar-orbiting satellite history with a reduction of six times, from 180 minutes to 28. That means from the time data is sensed to the time it is turned into usable information is only 28 minutes.
On Adequate Coverage:
Timeliness, in and of itself, is good but to insure quality data, we must have adequate coverage from a broad array of space, airborne, and ground and sea sensor networks to provide the best possible coverage for decision makers.
An example from space is the recently launched NPP Suomi satellite with its VIIRS sensor which offers three times better spatial resolution and also employs advanced calibration systems for improved night time sensing so severe weather can be more effectively forecast around the clock.
On Data Analytics:
Once you have the right information and have made it available to those who need it, then its about enabling decision makers by providing mission-focused analytics. Big data requires information integration, data analytics, technical decision aids, unique and intuitive visualization all wrapped up in simple to use decision support tools. These tools should be based on understanding the users mission and can quickly adapt to changing requirements.
If you are questioning the value of investing in analytics, consider that NOAA estimates that the per mile cost of timely hurricane evacuation to coastal communities within the cone of uncertainty can reach at least $1 million.
Q: Given todays budget environment, the community needs to look at ways to meet Earth observation requirements in a more efficient and cost effective way. What role do you think the aerospace industry should play in this and what are some of the examples of what industry can do?
A: To put it simply, the order of the day is efficiency and accomplishing more with less. Industry plays a big role in delivering on promise, driving cost efficiency and advocacy.
On Delivery of Promise:
Program success in schedule and capability, and of course cost, offer the best chance for continued government funding on key programs. Industry has a mixed track record; we can all do better.
On Driving Cost Efficiency:
However, it goes beyond merely meeting program commitments. Industry needs to deliver above and beyond what it promises. In todays environment, we must identify savings across programs. A case in point is the opportunity to use common ground systems (CGS) for multiple platforms and programs and to bring the benefits of cloud computing to our customers. The aerospace and defense companies can bring special value here because of our mission knowledge. As a matter of fact, the latter approach could have helped save the Air Forces Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) program by reusing the CGS being developed for NOAA.
Finally, industry must act with a stronger more unified voice. Last year, I was asked by a member of Congress, who shall remain nameless, why we should continue to invest in polar orbiting satellites when we have the Weather Channel to provide us the weather. Such fundamental misunderstanding is actually pretty pervasive. Considering that Earth observation is such a vital segment of our national economy, we need to develop an industry communications strategy that clearly articulates the importance of, as well as the most efficient way government can optimize current earth observation capabilities.
Let me stress, it is a national imperative that we retain our Earth observation and weather forecasting supremacy in the world. We can do that together, as industry and government, exploring bold solutions to improve the accuracy, timeliness and analysis of Earth observation data, especially given the current fiscal climate.