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Space Weather

What is space weather?

On planet Earth violent weather phenomena such as snowstorms and thunderstorms occur. Other types of storms can occur in space.

Changing SunThey are known as "solar storms" and like their counterparts on Earth they too may cause problems for us humans, especially because we are so dependent on satellite technology.

The effects that these "solar storms" can cause are usually only relevant for space-borne systems, but in extreme cases effects may be registered all the way down on Earth. (Image courtesy of SXT/Yohkoh)


Space weather services


The Space Weather group is part of the Space Physics department at BIRA-IASB. It conducts applied research and provides scientific services for a range of different users, including the general public:


PECASUS (Pan-European Consortium for Aviation Space weather User Services) is one of three global space weather service centers providing information about space weather conditions to aviation services. Radiation can interfere with on-board technology and communication systems, and impact the health of aircrew and passengers during solar particle radiation storms. Therefore, monitoring the space weather environment and delivering timely and accurate information is important for this specific end user.


SPENVIS (SPace ENVironment Information System) is an operational software tool of the European Space Agency (ESA), developed and maintained by BIRA-IASB. Consisting of a web interface, it is mainly used by engineers in preparing space missions and designing space instruments. It allows an initial analysis of potential problems associated with the space environment and its effects on spacecraft components and manned missions.

COMESEP (COronal Mass Ejections and Solar Energetic Particles) is an automatic alert system triggered by solar phenomena such as coronal mass ejections and solar flares, which can lead to particle radiation and geomagnetic storms that may impact technology and human activity in space and on Earth.

R-ESC (Space Radiation Expert Service Centre) is a part of ESA’s SSA (Space Situational Awareness) Space Weather Service Network. The centre coordinates a large number of expert groups from around Europe each delivering expertise and products/tools for space particle radiation, micron-size particulates (from meteoroids and space debris), as well as all types of phenomena induced effects on technologies and biological systems. Products/tools are combined in services for spacecraft design, operation, launch, human space flight and aviation.

SSCC (Space Weather Coordination Centre) is the first European Space Weather Helpdesk, with operators available to answer questions about the SSA Space Weather Service Network and space weather conditions in general. They provide first line support and tailored SWE bulletins for supporting ESA missions and operational activities in several sectors like aviation and GNSS service provision.

SEPEM (Solar Energetic Particle Environment Modelling) is a tool for statistical modeling the solar energetic particle (SEP) environment. Through the SEPEM web interface the user has access to SEP data and a range of modelling tools and functionalities intended to support space mission design.

UNILIB is a basic software toolkit used to predict the radiation environment experienced by satellites and spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It has been developed at BIRA-IASB under the TREND (Trapped Radiation ENvironment Development) project. The software library includes tools to compute the geomagnetic field, to trace magnetic field lines and drift shells, and to evaluate averaged quantities along a drift trajectory.


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