In the last few decades our technological civilization has become dependent on satellites for global communication, navigation, and commerce. We have also begun the long journey to explore the Moon, Mars, and our Solar System.
This exploration has led to some amazing discoveries about our dynamic Sun and its interaction with Earth. We now know that the Sun is a variable star that expels high-energy particles and deadly radiation continuously out into space. This radiation can impact and destroy technological systems and is one of the major concerns for human space exploration.
In the 1990s, the commercial satellite industry boomed, with direct-satellite-to-home TV markets and satellite communication options expanding. In 2000, the satellite communications industry was doing nearly $100 billion per year of business with nearly a hundred new satellites launched each year With the increased commercial businesses and the reliance of different markets on space, society began to notice when something went wrong in space.
Galaxy IV was an operating and profitable communications satellite until May 19, 1998, when, after experiencing weeks of intense radiation generated by the Sun and the Sun's interaction with the Earth's space environment, it failed. Galaxy IV carried the signals of over 90% of North America's pagers and several major broadcast networks, including the US National Public Radio (NPR) and CBS. Without the $200 million satellite, millions of pager messages, NPR radio, and CBS television programs never made it to their intended audience.