ESA SEISOP Provides Near Real-time Space Weather Reports

High-energy particles from solar storms or other space weather can disrupt satellite operations and, in some rare cases, may even cause loss of a satellite. Accurate space weather forecasts can help ground controllers take action to protect satellites.

SEISOP, the Space Environment Information System for Operations, in development at European Space Agency's (ESA) Space Operations Center (ESOC), has been providing space weather forecasts for ESA's gamma ray observatory "Integral." Alessandro Donati, head of ESOC's Advanced Mission Concepts and Technology Office, said, "Space weather affects spacecraft in many ways. There can be random lost data, changes in orbit dynamics and reduced quality of science data. Therefore, real-time updates are essential when deciding how long to shut down instruments during hazardous periods."

Some instruments are designed to automatically shut down to avoid damage from adverse space weather, but others are not, and bringing these back into service after an automated shutdown can be time consuming. Tools such as SEISOP will allow ground controllers to determine when radiation has fallen to a safe level after an event such as a solar flare.

SEISOP will enter operational development in 2007, providing all ESA missions with space weather updates. Donati said, "We expect to start work this year to create the final operational version. SEISOP can potentially provide warning services not only within ESA but also to space agencies worldwide, since space weather can affect any spacecraft."