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Pieces of the Sensor Web > AMPERE

The Iridium Satellite Network

The sensor web, a tightly interconnected sensor network, ubiquitously embedded into every aspect of our lives, interconnecting everyone and everything until physical and virtual blend together as one.

This is where we have been heading towards, for some time now. There are manifold advantages, and disadvantages to such a state, but it offers the promise of a way of life utterly removed from the one we have now.

In order to create a true sensor web, in which everyone is linked to everything, and knowledge flows in ways that make the current Internet look plain quaint, there are a legion of technologies and systems that require development and deployment, to shelter and grow the fragile web.

AMPERE is one such system. Tho name stands for Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment. What that mouthful basically means, is that it is itself a small sensor web, which monitors the flow of magnetic fields on Earth's surface.

It makes use of the Iridium constellation, a system of 66 communications satellites already in orbit. Iridium was chosen because of its uniqueness: It is the satellite phone comms network, and as such, blankets the entire Earth, including every foot of ocean and mountain. There is nowhere on the surface it cannot reach, and so is perfect for planetary monitoring.

AMPERE's purpose, is solely to measure electric currents that link Earth's atmosphere with space. By measuring this component of the space weather system, the system will allow 24/7 tracking of Earth's response to supersonic blasts of plasma ejected from the sun. These ejections are the sort that can damage satellites and aircraft at high altitude.

As far as the sensor web is concerned, the same plasma blasts can shut down power grids, and disrupt electronic communications. AMPERE is thus, at its most basic level, two things:

1. A monitoring system to give advance warning of EM spikes coming from space.
2. A method of pinpointing areas of the planet whose electronic systems have been damaged by EM bursts, facilitating swift repair.

AMPERE is being developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Further Reading

Iridium Satellite Network

AMPERE: Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment

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