SvalSat also tracks Earth-observing satellites. These spacecraft collect data and images that reveal details of our planet’s surface and atmosphere. Scientists use these satellites to observe things like vegetation, concentrations of various gases in the air, and the surface temperatures of the oceans.
The information gathered by Earth-observing satellites helps researchers understand the effects of climate change. Long-term weather patterns on Earth are changing as the average global temperature rises. As the atmosphere gets hotter, glaciers and ice sheets are melting. Meltwater from these sources pours into the ocean, causing sea levels to rise and coastlines to become submerged or eroded away. Scientists rely on satellites to observe these changes and create detailed models for making predictions about conditions in the future (see Eyes on Earth, below). Climate change can also worsen storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires—all of which SvalSat helps track.
Because of the importance of satellite data to scientific research and forecasting, the engineers of SvalSat must ensure that the station can do its job 24 hours a day. That means quickly fixing any problems that arise with the power systems, antennas, or data center. “We work hard to keep outages to a minimum,” says Sivertsen. “It’s an ongoing challenge—but that’s part of what makes this such a special place.”