Space weather forecasting will save $millions
The EU has just launched a new system to forecast space weather. Led by researchers at NERC's British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the €2.54m SPACECAST project will help satellite operators protect their expensive kit from radiation damage. The forecasts will be available on the project website.
SPACECAST helps protect satellites on orbit by modelling and forecasting high energy particle radiation.
Magnetic storms in space are caused by changes in the sun's activity, and with more sunspots predicted over the next two or three years this new system could save a huge amount of money and disruption.
One storm in 2003 caused more than 47 satellites to malfunction, including the total loss of one scientific satellite valued at $640m. The largest magnetic storm ever recorded – the Carrington storm of 1859 – happened long before we became so reliant on satellites for our communications. If something on that scale happened now it could cost us as much as $30bn – not to mention the disruption to our TV viewing. It may be worth pulling your board games out of mothballs just in case.
The international SPACECAST team uses satellite data, ground-based measurements of the Earth's magnetic field, and state-of-the-art computer models to generate the forecasts, which focus on the Van Allen radiation belt where most of our satellites are in orbit. This 'belt' is a doughnut-shaped ring of charged particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field which encircles the planet high above the equator.
The BAS website has more details.
Posted on 5 March 2012
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