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New risk index for satellite operators

05 February 2014

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Scientists, satellite operators, insurance industry and Government policy officials gather this week (7 February 2014) to discuss the latest advances in forecasting and 'nowcasting' that, for the first time, enable 'real-time' risk assessment of space radiation damage to Earth-orbiting satellites.

The new system is a result of the EU-funded SPACECAST project which, for the last three years, has investigated and modelled the physics of high and low-energy electrons and protons in near Earth space. The system also provides risk indices for satellite operators of the space radiation in different satellite orbits.

SPACECAST is led by Professor Richard Horne of British Antarctic Survey (BAS). He says,

"Despite all the advances in design, satellites are still damaged by space weather. In March 2012 three satellites suffered loss of services for hours during a space weather event. Ten per cent of the entire fleet were malfunctioning during the 2003 'Halloween' magnetic storm. With more than 1000 satellites on orbit it is important that the satellite industry, space insurance and Government have real-time information to help them take the necessary measures to protect satellites and the services they provide.

"Now, for the first time we can forecast radiation levels for a whole range of different orbits, from geostationary orbit to the slot region, including medium Earth orbit where there is a tremendous growth in the number of satellites. The new system, which is updated every hour, will help protect satellites used for navigation, telecommunications, remote sensing and other services. Nobody has done that before."

Source: British Antarctic Survey

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