OPENING STATEMENT

ALPBACH SUMMER SCHOOL 2002


Ambassador Peter JANKOWITSCH

Chairman

Supervisory Board of the Austrian Space Agency

 

23 July 2002

 

Herr Bürgermeister

Faculty & Students

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Let me, also on my part, offer a most cordial welcome to all of you at the opening of this, the 2002 Alpbach Summer School of the Austrian Space Agency, organized, as in previous years in close cooperation with many scientific institutions and experts, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology – to whose representative goes a particularly warm welcome – the ESA and various national Space Agencies of ESA member countries. This Summer School is also supported by the International Association for the promotion of cooperation with scientists from the New Independent States of the former USSR.

 

As in previous years the Summer School owes much to the excellent preparations of our Programme Committee to whose members I should like to pay a special tribute, a tribute also due to the the experienced team of our Summer School Management, led by Michaela GITSCH.

 

ASA Summer Schools now already have a long and distinguished history, serving the space community of the future and we had, last year, the occasion to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this unique institution, which I am pleased to say, year after year attracts a great number of those who, we hope, will soon be important contributors to the exploration and uses- the peaceful uses I should lilke to say- of Outer Space. In this regard it gives me great pleasure to welcome for the first time in Alpach young space researchers from the Russian Federation, a country that has, as all of you know, been one of the major players in Outer Space since the legendary days of Sputnik.

 

I also believe that we have always been quite successful in the choice of subjects for our summer schools, alternating, year after year between more scientific and more application oriented subjects. Thus,after having worked on EXTRAGALACTIC ASTRONOMY AND COSMOLOGY FROM SPACE two years ago we chose SATELLITE NAVIGATION SYSTEMS FOR SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS last year, in 2001.

 

The subject of this year’s summer school SPACE WEATHER: PHYSICS, IMPACTS AND PREDICTIONS is turned again towards an exciting and relatively new field of space science, but also, for reasons, I will shortly describe, of a highly topical nature. This is true as the space environment, as we all know, has important, wide reaching and not always benevolent effects on a wide range of technological systems and activities in space as well on Earth. Monitoring and indeed predicting these highly dynamic conditions in space – SPACE WEATHER indeed – is therefore of crucial importance as our uses of space increase, as our reliance on space grows. This is so as the number of satellites has increased dramatically over the past years and with them our everyday dependence on the systems they represent.

 

After the launch of the International Space Station human activity in space, somewhat rreduced over the last few years will also increase again. According to some projections there might be more than 25 space walks over the next few years to support construction of the space station. For these activities the monitoring and predicting of space weather is of crucial importance as space weather can have both a sporadic and a steady effects on the radiation environment outside and inside not only the ISS but also the Space Shuttle.

 

As you may be aware, "Space Weather" refers to time-variable conditions on the sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere that can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and can even endanger human life or health.

 

The Sun is the main driver of space weather. Sudden ejections of plasma and magnetic field structures from the Sun's atmosphere called coronal mass ejections together with sudden bursts of radiation called solar flares all cause space weather effects at the Earth. In addition, non-solar sources such as galactic cosmic rays, meteoroids and space debris can all be considered as altering space weather conditions at the Earth.

 

Space weather effects change the Earth's plasma environment on time scales varying from minutes to days and weeks. Dynamic magnetospheric processes may enhance the existing energetic particle populations to levels which are hazardous to the electronics onboard Earth-orbiting satellites. Solar activity and particle acceleration through cosmic processes create very energetic ions that can enter through the magnetospheric shield, again posing a hazard to both humans and technological systems in space.

 

These effects are particularly strong during the solar maximum where we experience severe disturbances that degrade satellite power systems, enhance the atmospheric drag on orbiting satellites, damage satellite instrumentation and can even disrupt electric power distribution on the ground or interfere with telecommunications. Astronauts can be confronted with hazardous radiation levels.

 

We are currently barely past the maximum activity period of solar cycle 23 where reports on disturbances were quite numerous and concerned, e.g. power generation systems, radio communications, GPS navigation, satellite operations and solar cell degradations. One particular area of interest waas commercial airline flights in polar regions.

 

This shows that space weather effects are by no means limited to space-borne systems. The strong currents in the auroral region induce large Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) in long power lines leading to power-line failures and corrosion effects. Pipelines also suffer from corrosion effects as GIC, when flowing from the pipe into the soil, may increase the corrosion rate.

An increased and irregular plasma density in the ionosphere disturbs high-frequency (HF) and very-high-frequency (VHF) communications, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite telephone communications, and operations of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). The GNSS systems currently include GPS of the United States of America, Glonass of the Russian Federation and soon, the European system, Galileo. Furthermore, increased radiation, especially over the polar regions, can reach harmful level affecting passengers and crews of high-altitude air flights.

 

The variations in space weather are important and it becomes indispensable to understand them and monitor their occurrence to mitigate their effects. Indeed, these effects can have very significant economic and social impacts, which is one of the main reasons that you are here at the Alpbach Summer School.

 

Effects of strong space weather changes can therefore be summed up in the following categories:

 

·        Effects on spacecraft components: spacecraft electrical charging, deep dielectric charging, anomalies in the electric and magnetic environment within the spacecraft, gradual degradation of pats and components, alteration of electronic equipment and sensors; and in some cases, interference in sensor measurements;

 

·        Effects on spacecraft orbits: altitude decrease due to increased atmospheric drag and problems in attitude control systems

 

·        Effects on communications: disturbances to GNSS signals, satellite to ground communications and radio communications on the ground

 

·        Effects on humans: physical effects on humans in manned space flight and on air flights

 

·        Effects on ground-based systems: effects on electric power systems and effects on oil and natural gas pipelines.

 

The first space weather events reported to harm technological systems took place around 1850, when electric telegraph communications were disturbed and in some cases completely stopped during strong auroral activation.

 

The first reported effect on power systems took place on 24 March, 1940. A great geomagnetic storm caused voltage dips, large swings in reactive power, and tripping of transformer banks in the USA and Canada. During that event 80% of all long-distance telephone connections out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, were out of operation.

 

A widely-known event took place on 13 March, 1989, when a severe geomagnetic storm caused the failure of a complete electric distribution system in Quebec, Canada. Several million people lost their electric power for up to 9 hours. The effect spread throughout the network very rapidly. From the first signs of the problems to the system collapse it took only about 90 seconds. At the same time HF communications were blocked world-wide, whereas VHF signals propagated unusually far creating interference problems. A Japanese communication satellite lost half of its redundant communication circuitry, a NASA satellite dropped about 5 km in altitude due to increased atmospheric drag, and several other satellites experienced various types of upsets.

 

As a result of a high-speed solar wind stream impacting the Earth's magnetosphere on 20 January, 1994, the Canadian Anik E-1 spacecraft at geostationary orbit suffered an operational anomaly causing a loss of attitude control. Telesat Canada operators were able finally to resume reasonably normal operations of the satellite. However, within a few hours the Anik E-2 satellite also experienced operational failure and control of the spacecraft was lost. TV, radio, telephone, and scientific operations within the American continent were affected for hours to days by these spacecraft anomalies: news, weather, and entertainment programming were disrupted, daily newspapers' information gathering systems were inoperative, and telephone services were interrupted in Canada.

 

During an extended (about two weeks) period of greatly enhanced electron fluxes, the same Anik E-1 communication satellite suffered a severe operational problem on 26 March 1996. The satellite lost all power from its south solar panel array, and this 50% power loss reduced the spacecraft's capacity significantly. The lost communication capability affected a broad range of video, voice, and data services throughout North America. Service to Telesat Canada customers was restored after about six hours by switching services to other spacecraft and by using backup systems such as fibre optics ground links. During the same period, several other spacecraft operators also reported problems.

 

A coronal mass ejection emerging from the Sun formed a magnetic cloud, which impacted the Earth on 10 January, 1997. In the early morning of 11 January, 1997, AT&T lost contact with its Telstar 401 satellite. Telstar 401, one of the two Skynet satellites, was fully functioning before the incident. The other one, Telstar 402R, took re-routed network signals right away following 401's difficulties.

 

Because of their importance, the international space research community has taken a number of concrete measures to monitor and study variations in space weather. These measures are a multi-national effort carried out through coordination.

 

Real-time space weather services are provided by the Regional Warning Centres of the International Space Environment Service (ISES). These international centres monitor and predict solar terrestrial activity and provide space weather forecasts for users who plan or conduct activities sensitive to space weather conditions. The International Space Environment Service is a joint service of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) and is a permanent service of the Federation of Astronomical and Geophysical Data Services (FAGS).

 

At present, there are eleven Regional Warning Centres (RWC) located around the globe. These centres are located in China (Beijing) , USA (Boulder), Russia (Moscow), India (New Delhi), Canada (Ottawa), Czech Republic (Prague), Japan (Tokyo), Australia (Sydney), Sweden (Lund), Belgium (Brussels) and Poland (Warsaw). A data exchange schedule functions with each centre providing and relaying data to the other centres. The centre in Boulder plays the special role as "World Warning Agency", acting as a hub for data exchange and forecasts.

 

Users of the services of RWCs include high frequency (HF) radio communicators, mineral surveyors using geophysical techniques, power line and pipeline authorities, operators of satellites and a host of commercial and scientific users. The increasing sophistication and sensitivity of modern technology has resulted in a steadily expanding range of applications where knowledge of the solar-terrestrial environment and space weather information are important.

 

Here in Europe, we are carrying out a number of specific activities in the field of space weather. Recognizing the importance of space weather information, ESA established its Space Weather Web Server, developed and hosted by Space Environment and Effects Analysis Section at ESA/ESTEC. One of the main aims of this Server is to stimulate and connect the European space weather community, while also including world-wide efforts that have already been initiated in this field. Some of you may be aware that the Server was originally inspired by the first "ESA Workshop on Space Weather", that took place at ESTEC, Noordwijk from the 11 to 13 Nov. 1998. Two follow-up Workshops on this subject took place at ESTEC in 2000 and 2001.

 

In order to further stimulate the European space weather community, ESA also produces a regular email newsletter, "Space Weather Euro News" (SWEN), which aims to circulate news of interest to the community in Europe and promote collaboration between readers.

 

ESA has also been active in investigating the need within Europe for increased space weather activities. In 1999, ESA embarked on two parallel studies of space weather. These studies were carried out by consortia led by Alcatel-Space (France) and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories (RAL) (UK). The studies performed wide ranging analyses of the need for a European Space Weather Programme and the possible content of such a programme. The specific activities covered by the studies included:

 

·        Analysis of Space Weather Effects

·        Analysis of the requirements of a space weather system

·        Definition of a service including prototyping of aspects of the services

·        Definition of the space segment

·        Analysis of programmatic and organisational issues

 

Final presentation of these studies took place in December 2001 at "Space Weather Workshop: Looking Towards a Future European Space Weather Programme", one of the workshops at ESTEC that I had mentioned before. Discussions and recommendations of this Workshop showed strong support   for the European Space Weather Programme which would provide the capacity to supply European-based Space Weather services to a wide variety of users including:

 

·        Spacecraft industry;

·        Users and providers of positioning systems;

·        Scientific community.

·        Airline companies;

·        Oil and mineral industries;

·        Electric power industry;

·        Insurers;

·        Telecommunications companies;

·        Educational sector (establishment school, media, etc.);

·        Security Forces

 

In addition, a Space Weather Working Team was created from a group of approximately 30 European experts in a variety of both scientific and application oriented fields relating to space weather in order to provide input to the studies, analyse the work of the consortia and advise ESA on future strategy for Space Weather Programme. It is currently chaired by Prof. Willibald Riedler of Austria, one of our foremost authorities on space research.

 

Following on from the results of the two parallel studies noted above, ESA is about to initiate a Space Weather pilot project. This project seeks to expand the results of these recently completed studies and to further develop the community of informed space weather service users in Europe. This will take place through outreach activities, collaboration and the development of key space weather applications based on existing or easily adaptable sources of data.

 

The project is anticipated to last for a period of 2 years. At the end of project, an assessment will be made of the level of interest in space weather services among European users and the level of economic benefit future programme elements would bring. In order to achieve these goals, a number of space weather applications projects will be undertaken in key areas. These will be selected following an announcement of opportunity (AO) and integrated into a network which will be developed, supported and supervised by a separate contract which will also cover the development of a space weather provision infrastructure. The network is expected to include up to 15 co-funded projects focusing on a wide range of space weather user domains. Each of these projects will develop services and capabilities addressing the needs of specific user groups. These developments will lead to an improved understanding in the user community of potential space weather effects, to the extent that the users involved will be able to participate in an evaluation of the service at the end of the pilot project and contribute to the economic analysis of existing and potential future space weather services.

 

Proposed user application groups include the following:

·        Prospecting

·        Mobile communications systems and users

·        Ground-to-ground communications

·        Over-the-horizon radar

·        Space-based communication services

·        Space-based navigation services and users

·        Spacecraft development and operations (including drag effects)

·        Scientific spacecraft users (instrument interference and campaign planning)

·        Space launcher operators

·        Manned space programmes

·        Aircrew radiation exposure monitoring

·        Aircraft avionics

·        Spacecraft and launcher insurance

·        Public outreach and tourism

 

Each of the fifteen co-funded service projects will aim to achieve the following:

·        Development of the user community for space weather services in Europe

·        Establishment and use of key facilities on ground

·        Establishment of necessary agreements with national agencies and/or institutes

·        Definition of interfaces and formats to a common service infrastructure to be provided by the separate infrastructure contract

·        Contribution to design of the pilot project service architecture

·        Development of data collection, transmission, ingestion, processing and dissemination tools

·        Establish modeling hard/software requirements

·        Procure hardware

·        Establish models and educational tools

·        Contribute to the user assessment at the end of the pilot project

·        Recommendations for improved space weather measurements and computational capabilities

·        Recommendations for any future programme.

 

The overall service support infrastructure will have the following main objectives:

·        Federate existing and develop new activities in a common network and develop the associated software infrastructure

·        Encourage synergy across domains between various users and service providers

·        Get detailed data on the cost and impact of effects together with the cost and value (being either economic or strategic) of services

·        Assess user requirements for future development and identify technology requirements (esp. space based measurements)

 

NASA for its part has also been actively involved in space weather efforts, one programme that was initiated within the NASA Sun Earth Connection discipline being the Living with a Star Programme, or LWS by its initials. This programme was designed to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address the impacts of space weather on our societies in general. It involves a combination of basic research, critical new measurements and cooperation with international organisations. Missions envisaged by this programme include a Solar Dynamics Observatory, a Radiation Belt as well as a Ionospheric Mapper.

 

Also in the US, the US National Academy of Sciences has already conducted a study on the radiation risks to astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS. This report discusses the data and modelling requirements to specify and predict the radiation environment at the ISS. Major areas of radiation concern here are the solar energetic protons/cosmic rays and the radiation belt electrons. All these developments have also to be seen against the fact that all our activities in space are distributed over vast distances. The Space Station Is located only some 350 km above the surface of the earth, but geostationary satellites are already located about 36000 km above Earth and satellites in the solar wind that give warnings of solar activities about to impact earth are located at about 1.4M km from Earth. A major challenge therefore is to sepcify and predict space weather over this vast volume of space within the relatively limited measurements currently available.

 

As I said before, recent solar activity has resulted in numerous dramatic disturbances to the space as well as the terrestrial environment. On the other hand, with the now existing international network of research and operational spacecraft as well as with the availability of computer models these recent events have given many new insights into the complex dynamics that occur in the solar-terrestrial environment. Through these developments we are now developing an improved understanding of the signatures on the Sun and in the solar atmosphere that lead to large space weather disturbances and an improves ability to model the background solar wind into which the transient solar disturbances must propagate. We are also developing a better understanding of how the solar wind energy  drives the near earth environment and how that energy is transmitted and dissipated throughout the magnetosphere-ionosphere system.

 

Ladies & Gentlemen

 

Let me conclude by expressing the certainty that during the work and the studies you will make over the coming two weeks you will, in the innovative, pioneering and visionary spirit that has always inhabited this summer school contribute to the advancement of an important branch of space science. Like the work of some of your predecessors, your work will perhaps also catch the attention of some of the major centres of space sciences and thus enrich the body of ideas and projects that the international scientific community needs.

 

Let me therefore wish you, on behalf of ASA and ist board of directors two highly successful and exciting weeks here in Alpbach.

 

Thank you for your attention.