Geoff Reeves Participates in International Space Safety Program

Geoff Reeves Participates in International Space Safety Program

Geoff Reeves Participates in International Space Safety Program

Geoff Reeves, a scientist at the New Mexico Consortium, has been asked to participate as an advisor in the FARBES project, a European Space Agency project supported by the European Horizon Program. The project is led by professor János Lichtenberger, of ELTE University in Hungary.

ELTE University’s Department of Geophysical and Space Sciences Space Science Research Team will lead this international project to support the unhindered operation of satellites and spacecraft by providing predictions of the space environment based on ground-recorded data.

Solar flares and geomagnetic storms cause charged particles (plasma) that are trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field to increase in intensity. These energetic particle populations are called the Van Allen radiation belts which are hazardous to satellites; sometimes ‘killing’ them through a process of electrical charging and discharging. Essentially they cause little lightning bolts that can damage or destroy sensitive electrical systems needed for communications, guidance, or other critical functions.

In order to protect equipment, satellites must be switched off ahead of these ‘solar storms’, which is unprofitable for the operators. Satellite operators are interested in how long the radiation belts will be too intense to operate safely so they know when it is safe to turn the satellite back on and resume operations.

Currently, there are no satellites making real-time satellite measurements needed to predict this process throughout the region where satellites might be in danger. Thus, this project proposes to make forecasts based on ground measurements. Instead of focusing on fine details, these ground measurements will estimate the duration of the already mentioned dangerous periods with the help of radiation belt models.

The Space Research Group of the Geophysics and Space Sciences Department of ELTE has several decades of experience in making these measurements.

The goal of the FARBES project, which is now underway, is the operational application of the plasmasphere and radiation belt models in the space safety program of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Participants in the project include the French Office National d’Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales, the British Antarctic Survey, the Institute of Thermospheric Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the University of Athens, and the US New Mexico Consortium.

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