SafeSpace is a scientific research project, funded by Horizon 2020, the new EU framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and submitted in response to the H2020-SPACE-2018-2020 call SU-SPACE-22-SEC-2019: Space Weather topic.
The SafeSpace project aims at advancing space weather nowcasting and forecasting capabilities and, consequently, at contributing to the safety of space assets through the transition of powerful tools from research to operations (R2O). To ensure an efficient and optimized transfer from science to application, we have foreseen close collaboration between academia (NKUA, ONERA, KUL, IAP, UPS, IASB-BIRA), a major European space industry (TAS) and a space-oriented SME (SPARC). This team shall improve radiation belt modelling through the incorporation into an existing physical model of processes and parameters that are of major importance to radiation belt dynamics. In order to set up a prototype of a new space weather service dedicated to Earth-orbiting satellites, end users’ requirements related to ionizing particles in space will be defined by TAS – in consultation with other end users.
SafeSpace is naturally related to ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme. The objective of the SSA programme is to support Europe’s independent utilisation of, and access to, space through the provision of timely and accurate information and data regarding the space environment, and particularly regarding hazards to infrastructure in orbit and on the ground. As part of Period II and shortly period III of ESA’s SSA Programme, the Space Weather (SWE) Segment is focusing on the development of applications and coordination aimed at enabling services for owners/operators of satellites in space and infrastructure on the ground.
The ultimate result of the project will be a sophisticated model of the electron radiation belt and a space weather service prototype of tailored radiation belt environmental indicators, which will provide space weather forecasts with lead times of 2-4 days.
Space weather refers to severe disturbances of the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space environment that can damage modern technology on the ground and in space. These disruptions are driven by changes on the Sun and the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field. While space weather affects many areas, SafeSpace aims at advancing our Space Weather nowcasting and forecasting capabilities specifically to contribute to the safety of space assets through sophisticated modeling of the major energetic particle population in geospace, namely the Van Allen radiation belts.
Solar and interplanetary conditions will be used as initial conditions to drive the radiation belt model and provide the link to the solar origin of space weather events. This approach, all the way from the sun to the inner magnetosphere, combining the expertise of solar and magnetosphere physicists, will permit early warning generation of space weather events using, for the first time, the whole chain of associated physics undergoing emerging processes.
We plan to achieve this through the synergistic use of four well-established models (UPS/CDPP solar disturbance propagation tool, ONERA Neural Network tool, IASB-BIRA plasmasphere model and ONERA Salammbô radiation belts code) that cover different regions of the complete Sun – interplanetary space – magnetosphere chain of space weather. The coupling of these distinct and complementary models will enable a holistic approach of radiation belt forecasting, incorporating the study of plasma and energy flow from the Sun to the near-Earth environment, the transfer into the magnetosphere, and the effects on cold plasma density and electromagnetic wave properties, driving radiation belt dynamics.
The main goal of the proposed SafeSpace project is to design and produce a Space Safety Service, i.e. a prototype service dedicated to space weather events affecting the Earth. The Space Safety Service will be devoted to the prediction and early warning of solar disturbance effects on Earth-orbiting satellites through the enhancement of energetic electron flux and fluence in the outer Van Allen radiation belt. The design and output of the early warning system will be based on the requirements of space industry partners, and will consider the full cause-to-effect sequence, from precursors on Sun’s surface to radiation belts variability.
SafeSpace will improve understanding of Space Weather phenomena:
- For the first time, four well-established models (CDPP solar disturbance propagation tool, ONERA neural network for energy transfer, IASB-BIRA plasmasphere model and ONERA Salammbô radiation belts code) will be combined to advance nowcasting and forecasting the inner magnetosphere radiation belt electron environment. These models together cover all relevant plasma regions from the solar surface to the inner parts of the magnetosphere.
- As a new element, these models will be enhanced by including a statistical description of plasma densities in the magnetosphere, which is crucial information in analysing the acceleration and loss of the electron population.
- As the basic physics of space weather and the relativistic electron acceleration and loss are still poorly understood, SafeSpace will deliver new scientific understanding of the processes governing the space weather dynamics.
The proposed SafeSpace project will improve the understanding of Space Weather impact on space systems through the following actions:
- SafeSpace will define, in collaboration with space industry, radiation belt activity indices that are useful to spacecraft operations (situational awareness, scheduling of operations, testing, maintenance and post event analysis).
- SafeSpace will design and establish a prototype service tool of such indicators and early warnings and provide them for evaluation to spacecraft operators and space industry.
- SafeSpace will provide predictions with a significant higher precision than today allowing a lead time, nor 3 hours but 2 to 4 days.
- SafeSpace will provide open access to radiation belt nowcast and forecast on a dedicated web site.
- SafeSpace will use the prototype service evaluation feedback from the aforementioned stakeholders to improve its functionality.
SafeSpace project will analyse viable mitigation strategies and demonstrate how these add value compared to existing mitigation strategies. In particular a direct impact is expected on:
- The smooth operation and safety of European space assets such as the geostationary METEOSAT satellites and the European satellite navigation system Galileo (see in particular WP5.1).
- The protection of space-based infrastructure that is increasingly used for European security and defence.
- The robotic and manned space exploration, which is one of the pillars of the European Space Policy (as outlined in several relevant documents of the European Commission), as it has direct impacts on spacecraft and on humans in space. Most satellites operate in regions where they can undergo intense fluxes of extremely energetic radiation belt particles.
- A new industrial tool containing the state of the art in the forecast of radiation events, so that these are easily interpretable by a satellite operator or a system engineer, reducing the response time and improving the accuracy of an unforeseen event and the scheduling of operations.
The overall strategy of the SafeSpace work plan is designed to advance our knowledge on radiation belt dynamics; to enhance real-time forecast capabilities with a target lead time of 2 to 4 days; to deliver research results to the scientific community and powerful forecasting tools to end users meaning space industries, satellite operators, space agencies and insurance companies.
In the following we provide synoptic work package descriptions.
WP1 – Management and Coordination:
This work package covers the management aspects of the project from the start of the project until its end. It will monitor scheduled milestones such as the kick-off meeting, midterm and final reports; ensure smooth progress during the project execution; coordinate consortium activities; coordinate the consortium interaction with the External Advisory Panel; highlight any difficulties to the EC/REA Project Officer; resolve conflicts during project implementation.
WP2 – Solar and Interplanetary Drivers of Geospace Conditions:
This work package will conduct extensive modelling of space weather events (CIRs) all the way from the Sun’s surface to Earth’s magnetosphere. It will focus on determining the occurrence and propagation of the solar wind streams susceptible of affecting the Terrestrial magnetosphere and on quantifying the predictability of key space weather driving parameters at Earth. Through the use of neural networks, it will also provide quantification of when, where and how much energy and plasma is fed from the solar wind into the inner magnetosphere. Finally, the work will also consist in defining the requirements for enhancements to space weather modelling tools.
WP3 – Inner Magnetosphere Dynamics:
This work package will conduct extensive modelling of space weather events in the inner magnetosphere and carry out research to improve existing radiation belt models. It will focus on modelling of inner magnetosphere drivers (including full distribution, median and percentiles) for a space weather service dedicated to the Earth radiation belts which is to say: parameterization of cold plasma density (today, the main limiting factor to evaluate accurate wave-particle diffusion coefficients) by solar/IMF parameters from WP2 through predicted geomagnetic activity indices (note that electromagnetic waves intensity and propagation angle from previous EU-FP7 projects, such as SPACECAST and MAARBLE will be used and will be augmented by wave observations at LEO from the recent European Swarm mission); prototype of an operational model of diffusion coefficients (mean, median and percentiles values to address uncertainties in radiation belt dynamics). So, this work package will conduct the improvement of both the existing Salammbô electron radiation belt model and the data assimilation tool according to new definition of interplanetary drivers as well as inner magnetosphere ones. In the purpose of a space weather service that would provide forecast capabilities, special cares will be made to quantify the benefits gained thanks to these improvements to produce high fidelity nowcasts of the state of the radiation belts. Finally, based on these assembled physics-based bricks, prototypes of an operational data assimilation tool and Salammbô code for use in WP4 will be achieved.
WP4 – Space Safety Service:
This work package focuses to the implementation of a space weather prototype to provide products and parameters outputs matching the end users’ requirements. It will define a space weather end-user service and relevant products, dedicated to Earth radiation belts. It will focus on prototyping a web-based electron radiation belts nowcasting and forecasting tool, taking into account solar/IMF as well as internal magnetospheric dynamics from WP2 and WP3. It will provide radiation belt activity indices and an early warning system to fulfil end-user requirements.
WP5 – Evaluation and Exploitation:
This work package will focus on the exploitation of the research and development output of the project in an effective way. Moreover, to consider a smooth transition from a prototype to an operational service, the Space Safety Service will be fully evaluated for future use and improvements and we will clearly state on intellectual property rights on different components of the prototype.
WP6 – Dissemination and Outreach:
This work package covers the dissemination and public outreach activities of the project. In more detail, this work package will promote a dissemination of results to the scientific and user community in order to ensure increased visibility of SafeSpace and maximum impact of the research and development activities of the project. A range of communication tools, techniques and activities appropriate for the different identified audiences will be deployed. We will design and run outreach activities that can act as catalysers, motivating the public at different ages and education levels.
A set of clear dissemination and communication objectives include:
- To ensure awareness of the relevance of space weather-related phenomena and maximum visibility of SafeSpace.
- To define the target end-user audience at European level and the messages to be transmitted.
- To select the appropriate communication tools and set up a space weather communication plan with specific tasks.
- To promote the activities of SafeSpace ensuring increased visibility of the Consortium excellence and know-how.
- To distribute information and WP results within the Consortium, providing a communication tool and platform to facilitate interaction with the scientific community at large.
- To evaluate the potential for exploitation of the new tools and products to be developed during the project and beyond.
- To identify R&D projects with similar objectives and liaise for the purpose of exchanging technological and scientific information.
- To organise targeted workshops and special sessions in international conferences/meetings, promoting the results of SafeSpace.
- To develop and maintain a web site dedicated to the project.
- To publish original papers in scientific journals.