Space Weather Week Highlights ESA's Situation Awareness Program
November 9, 2012

Space Weather Week Highlights ESA’s Situation Awareness Program

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Space Situational Awareness program was spotlighted this week during the ninth European Space Weather Week.

The Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program's recent developments in space weather activities were showcased during the conference.

As part of SSA, ESA's space weather specialists are focused on developing warning services to help protect satellites and ground infrastructure. These services will enable end-users a wide range of economically vital sectors to mitigate the effects of their systems, reducing costs and improving safety and reliability.

This year's meeting provides the first opportunity to showcase ESA's new "precursor" space-weather service network and the Service Coordination Center that was recently established at the Space Pole in Brussels.

“The center is now offering an initial set of limited services using European space weather sensors on the ground and in orbit,” Juha-Pekka Luntama, Head of Space Weather at the SSA program office, said in a press release.

“These provide near-realtime updates on plasma, magnetic fields, radiation, particle flows and other physical happenings in space, and we intend to expand the range of services provided in the coming years,” said Luntama.

The center helps to provide daily support to customers accessing the precursor services, and is operated under contract to ESA by a consortium led by the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy and the Royal Observatory Belgium.

During the conference week, scientists focused on the effects of space weather on satellite operations, incorporating presentations from satellite operators describing current practice.

The Sun is more active now than it has been for the past four years. It has had increasingly energetic particles and radiation being ejected toward Earth, posing significant hazards for the space and ground infrastructure.

Current predictions show that in mid-2013, the Sun will be going through its most active phase in the current solar cycle. Having programs that focus on space weather will help scientists know how to keep satellites and other spacecraft safe from these cosmic events.