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UK and USA join forces to launch ‘space weather’ service

Christian Fernsby |
The UK will develop a new instrument for use on space weather monitoring spacecraft to observe the solar wind, in order to protect astronauts, satellites and ground infrastructure.

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The Sun is always emitting magnetised plasma called the ‘solar wind’. While conditions are often benign, strong solar wind can produce disruptive space weather by disturbing the Earth’s magnetic field.

More severe space weather can occur when the Sun occasionally discharges large bubbles of magnetised plasma known as coronal mass ejections. Extreme events can be hazardous to astronauts and impact electrical infrastructure, telecommunications systems, aviation and satellite navigation.

Thanks to €8 million (£7million) funding from the UK Space Agency, allocated through the European Space Agency (ESA), scientists at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) will develop a cutting edge ‘plasma analyser’ which, when placed in deep space, will give early warning of imminent, damaging space weather.

Space weather is a global concern, so the UK Space Agency and ESA will collaborate closely on science, space and ground systems technology with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States.


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