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Weather warning system for Satellites?

by gps4us news 2012-03-05 17:36


Satellites are widely used for weather tracking and prediction. However, the satellites themselves are at risk when it comes to particular type of storms – solar storms.

Increased solar activity, accompanied by a large burst of solar energy can significantly damage a satellite, permanently knock it out, or scramble its orbit and send it into the path of another craft.

A massive solar storm, like the one reported in 1859, could cause $30 billion in damage to satellites currently in orbit, and the 11-year sun activity cycle is set to peak in 2012-2013.

But researches from six European countries, led by team from BAS (British Antarctic Survey) are developing the system that would forecast changes in radiation by using satellite data and ground-based measurements of the earth's magnetic field. That data would enable them to warn satellite operators of the dangerous increase in particles that could damage satellite’s equipment and their wings. Such warning would allow operators to reposition satellite to avoid exposure, power it down, or fold its wings.

Since GPS satellites are orbiting closer to earth, and pass through Van Allen belt (a large magnetic field), they are particularly vulnerable, and would greatly benefit from such warning system.

Estimated cost of such system? Around $3.4 million – a tiny amount compared to the cost of even one lost satellite.

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