Newly signed law aims to limit the damage from space weather

Solar flares might do less damage.

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IN SPACE - MARCH 6:  In this handout from NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a  X5.4 solar flare, the largest in five years, erupts from the sun's surface March 6, 2012. According to reports, particles from the flare are suppose to reach earth early March 7, possibly disrupting technology such as GPS system, satellite networks and airline flights.  (Photo by NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) via Getty Images)
NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) via Getty Images

Space weather like solar flares could seriously disrupt electronics and satellites, and the US government might soon mount a better defense. President Trump has signed the PROSWIFT Act (Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow), a bill that will help to predict space weather and limit the damage when it hits. The newly-minted law orders federal agencies like NASA, NOAA, and the Defense Department to coordinate with private companies to study the potential impact of this weather and spur research for both forecasting and the technology to withstand effects.

The agencies also have to develop a backup for the 25-year-old Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite.

The measure was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Michigan senator Gary Peters.

It could take a long time for PROSWIFT to lead to meaningful measures. Politicians believe it could easily be worth the cost, mind you. Gardner pointed to a Lloyds of London estimate that a sever space weather incident could cost up to $2.6 trillion through blackouts, satellite disruptions and air traffic issues. What money the US spends now could reap dividends if the country can bounce back from the Sun’s more extreme behavior with relatively little trouble.

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