Modelling the acceleration, transport and loss of radiation belt electrons to protect satellites from space weather (Rad-Sat)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Antarctic Survey
Department Name: Science Programmes

Abstract

Over the last 10 years the number of operational satellites in orbit has grown from 450 to more than 1300. We rely on these satellites more than ever before for a wide range of applications such as mobile phones, TV signals, internet, navigation and financial services. All these satellites must be designed to withstand the harsh radiation environment in space for a design life that can be as long as 15 years or more. Space weather events can increase electron radiation levels by five orders of magnitude in the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts causing satellite charging, disruption to satellite operations and sometimes satellite loss. For example, in 2003 it was estimated that at least 10% of all operational satellites suffered anomalies (malfunctions1) during a large space weather event known as the Halloween storm. It is therefore important to understand how and why radiation levels vary so much so that engineers and business can assess impact and develop mitigation measures. New results from the NASA Van Allen Probes and THEMIS satellite missions show that wave-particle interactions play the major role in the acceleration, transport and loss of high energy electrons and hence the variability of the radiation belts. This proposal brings together scientists from across the UK with stakeholders from the insurance and satellite services sector. We will process data from scientific satellites such as Van Allen Probes and THEMIS to obtain information on four very important type of waves known as magnetosonic waves, and radio-waves known as plasmaspheric hiss, lightning generated whistlers and transmitter waves. We will use data, theory and models to determine the properties of the waves and how they vary during space weather events. We will conduct studies to assess the acceleration, transport and loss of electrons due to each wave type using quasi-linear theory. We will use simulations to test whether nonlinear effects result in more particle acceleration and loss compared to quasi-linear theory. We will analyse compressional magnetosonic waves in the ultra-low frequency range and determine their effectiveness for transporting electrons across the magnetic field, and whether the transport is diffusive or not. We will incorporate the results of these studies into our state-of-the-art global radiation belt model to simulate known space weather events, and compare the results against data to highlight the importance of the waves and improve the model. We will also include local time effects and compare loss rates against data from the ground and other satellites to constrain the model. We will simulate extreme space weather events using our existing radiation belt model, and an MHD model so that we can assess the role of waves in the rapid formation of a radiation belt such as occurred in 1991 in less than 2 minutes. We will develop a stakeholder community consisting of space insurance, satellite operators and forecasters who will provide input to our research and who will use the results for risk assessment, anomaly resolution and operational planning. The project will deliver new processed data, a better forecasting capability and expertise that will support the UK Government assessment of severe space weather for the National Risk Register2 and the growth of the satellite industry.

1. Cannon, P, S., et al. (2013), Extreme Space Weather: Impacts on Engineered Systems and Infrastructure, Royal Academy of Engineering, London, SW1A 2WH.
2. Cabinet Office, (2012), National risk register of civil emergencies, Whitehall, London SW1A 2WH, www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

Planned Impact

We have identified the following non-academic users who will benefit from our research:

Space insurance

One of the outputs of our research will be a set of radiation belt models which can be used to re-create the space radiation environment for severe space weather events that damage spacecraft. In their letter of support the Atrium Space Insurance Consortium have listed 4 ways in which they will benefit, including "further information to ensure the Lloyds Realistic Disaster Scenarios are accurate and that sufficient reserves are being made to cover the potential worst case insurance losses". Space insurance may also benefit from an independent assessment of the radiation environment for anomaly resolution.

Satellite construction companies

Satellite designers must protect satellites from the harsh radiation environment in space. They use models of the radiation environment to design for the 'reasonable worst case' but there is a very large uncertainty. Our research will simulate three different types of realistic worst case events, and will provide the radiation environment for medium Earth orbit for any part of the solar cycle. Satellite designers will be able to use our results to assess the amount of shielding needed to protect satellites, particularly for electric orbit raising and medium Earth orbit where there is relatively little radiation data.

Satellite operators

Satellite operators have an interest in the safe and reliable operation of their spacecraft. Space weather events can cause satellite anomalies (malfunctions) resulting in loss of service and in some cases total satellite loss. It can also mean a delay in reaching orbit and lost revenue if an anomaly affects electric orbit raising. Our research will lead to a step-change in space weather forecasting which will provide satellite operators with space weather situation awareness. This will enable them to plan mitigating action, for example, to suspend orbit manoeuvres and software updates, to ensure more staff are available to deal with problems, to have back-up systems immediately available, and when appropriate to inform users that some services may be at risk. Satellite operators will also benefit by using the results of our case studies of particular events to help identify the cause of a satellite anomaly.

Space Weather forecasting

The UK Met Office and the European Space Agency (ESA) are developing a system of forecasting all types of space weather. Our research will include new processes into our state-of-the-art forecasting models which will enable a step-change in our forecasting capability. Subject to further agreement, the Met Office and the ESA will benefit by turning our prototype forecasting system into a fully operational system for the satellite services sector.

General public

It is widely acknowledged that space research attracts young people into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM subjects). The press coverage of the UK Astronaut Tim Peak and the International Space Station, is compelling evidence of the public's interest in space research. Our dissemination activities to schools and the public will help attract young people into the STEM subjects.

Policy makers

Extreme space weather was put on the UK National Risk Register in 2012 and revised in 2014. The UK Department of Energy and Industrial Strategy (DEIS) 'owns' the risk and is developing contingency plans to mitigate the impact of severe space weather. The Department will benefit from our research which will help define scenarios for severe space weather events, and how long they may last, and will provide the radiation environment needed for further impact assessment by engineers and business. The PI (Richard Horne) is a member of the Space Environment Impacts Expert Group (SEIEG) and will be able to provide advice to Government through this Group at meetings with DEIS.

Publications

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Allison H (2018) Determination of the Equatorial Electron Differential Flux From Observations at Low Earth Orbit in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

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Chen L (2017) Source of the lowaltitude hiss in the ionosphere in Geophysical Research Letters

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Engebretson M (2018) EMIC Wave Events During the Four GEM QARBM Challenge Intervals in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

 
Description We have found that satellites at geostationary orbit are more at risk of damage due to a period of fast solar wind flowing away from the sun than they are to a major geomagnetic storm.

We have calculated the electron flux throughout the Earth's radiation belt for a 1 in 100 year event using satellite data. This information is needed by satellite designers, manufacturers and insurers to assess the risk of damage due to space weather and to design more resiliant satellites.
Exploitation Route The results have been used as input to update the UK national risk register for space weather, and the US Space Weather benchmarks.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/satellites-more-at-risk-from-fast-solar-wind-than-a-major-space-storm/
 
Description Research outputs have been used to support the UK national risk register for space weather
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Input to UK Risk Assessment for Space Weather
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Provided advice on the risk to satellites due to severe space weather. This is being used to update and suport the UK risk register. The impact is to help the Government plan and prepare for an extreme space weahter event, and develop better mitigation strategies.
 
Title BAS Radiation Belt Model 
Description The BAS radiation belt model is designed to simulate the variability of the Earth's radiation belt. It is a 3d model and is the equivalent to a global circulation model in atmopsheric physics - but applied to space. It is used as a basic research tool to understand the physical processes governing the acceleration, transport and loss of electrons in the radiation belts. It has also been applied to Jupiter and Saturn. There is a verion of the code that is used to predict the radiation belts for space weather applications. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model has been used to show how plasma waves play a major role in the formation of the Earth's radiation belts. 
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/science/research-models/bas-radiation-belt-model-bas-rbm/
 
Title HOTRAY 
Description HOTRAY is a computer program that can trace the path of any type of wave through a hot magnetised plasma. It has been used successfully in the Earth's ionosphere, magnetosphere, Jupiter, Saturn, the solar wind and in lab plasmas, 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact There are over 100 peer-reviewed research publications using HOTRAY, including collaborations with USA, Japan, and Europe. 
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/science/research-models/hotray-ray-tracing-model/
 
Title PADIE code 
Description The PADIE code is designed to compute the pitch angle and energy diffusion co-efficients due to the interaction between plasma waves and high energy charged particles in space - in particualr the radiation belts of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact It has been used in many peer reviewed research papers to show how different types of plasma waves can cause acceleration and loss of high energy electrons and protons in space. 
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/science/research-models/padie-pitch-angle-diffusion-of-ions-and-electrons/
 
Description Analysis of plasma wave data 
Organisation Boston University
Department Centre for Space Physics
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of THEMIS and Van Allen probe plasma wave data
Collaborator Contribution Provision of wave data in a specified format from THEMIS and Van Allen probes for VLF wave database. Interpretation of wave data.
Impact Meredith, N. P., R. B. Horne, A. Sicard-Piet, D. Boscher, K. H. Yearby, W. Li and R. M. Thorne, Global model of lower band and upper band chorus from multiple satellite observations,J. Geophys. Res., 117, A12209, doi:10.1029/2012JA017978, 2012. Meredith, N. P., R. B. Horne, J. Bortnik, R. M. Thorne, L. Chen, W. Li and A. Sicard-Piet, Global statistical evidence for chorus as the embryonic source of plasmaspheric hiss, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, doi:10.1002/grl.50593, 2013. Horne, R. B., T. Kersten, S. A. Glauert, N. P. Meredith, D. Boscher, A. Sicard-Piet, R. M. Thorne and W. Li, A new diffusion matrix for whistler mode chorus waves, J. Geophys. Res., 118, 6302-6318, doi:10.1002/jgra.50594 , 2013. Meredith, N. P., R. B. Horne, W. Li, R. M. Thorne, and A. Sicard-Piet, Global model of low frequency chorus (fLHR < f < 0.1fce) from multiple satellite observations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, doi:10.1002/2013GL059050, 2014.
Start Year 2012
 
Description MICA - South 
Organisation University of New Hampshire
Department Department of Physics
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Operation and provision of data from a seach coil magnetometer at Halley and Rothera in the Antarctic to the international network.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data from the wider network of search coil magnetometers in the Antarctic.
Impact Numerous research papers listed elsewhere.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Nonlinear wave-particle interactions 
Organisation University of Reading
Department Department of Meteorology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of satellite data, computer modelling output, scientific expertese.
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of satellite data
Impact Research paper given at AGU Chapman Conference, Cascais, Portugal, 2018.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Plasma wave data analysis 
Organisation University of Iowa
Department Department of Physics and Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of the HOTRAY code, extertese on plasma waves
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of plasma wave data from the Van Allen Probes mission, wave normal angle distribution, ray tracing of plasma waves
Impact Research papers listed separately.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Ray tracing 
Organisation University of Texas at Dallas
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of the HOTRAY ray tracing code, scientific expertese
Collaborator Contribution Research on the origin and propagation of low frequency plasma waves known as plasmaspheric hiss
Impact several research papers
Start Year 2009
 
Description Shock acceleration 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Space and Atmospheric Physics Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Discussion and expertese on the radiation belts
Collaborator Contribution Computer simulations of particle motion in the Earth's radiation belts in response to rapid compression of the Earth's magnetic field by coronal mass ejections emitted by the Sun
Impact Too early in the project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Solar wind coupling 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department Automatic Control and Systems Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of satellite data
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis and machine learning which relates variations in the solar wind outside the Earth's magnetic field to the location and amplitude of plasma waves inside the Earth's radiation belts
Impact Research papers under Rad-Sat listed under the University of Sheffield submission.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Space Insurance 
Organisation Atrium Space Insurance Consortium
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analysis of particular space weather events of interest to space insurance, looking at the causes of the event and the space radiation environment
Collaborator Contribution Indication of particular space weather events where satellites may have suffered an outage or a malfunction
Impact Member of the Rad-Sat Stakeholder team. Joint meetings to discuss the risks faced by the space insurance industry.
Start Year 2011
 
Description ULF wave diffusion co-efficients 
Organisation University College London
Department Department of Space and Climate Physics (MSSL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Led discussion and provided expertese on radial diffusion in the radiation belts
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of satellite data to calculate radial diffusion coefficients
Impact Research presentation at the AGU Chapman Conference in Cascais, Portugal, 2018
Start Year 2017
 
Description Interview for BBC on space weather 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TV interview on space weather broadcast on BBC Weather channel, more than 10 times over the Christmas and New year period of 2017/18. Reached over 500,000 people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05rrm08
 
Description Interview with Polygon, an American video gaming website, on the use of VLF recordings from Halley in the space simulation game Elite Dangerous 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with Polygon, an American online video gaming website, about the use of VLF recordings from Halley, Antarctica in the space simulation game Elite dangerous. This resulted in a news story entitled "Elite's new exploration system brings even more real-life science into the game - Billions of new audio channels courtesy of a British research team in Antarctica"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.polygon.com/2018/12/4/18125779/elite-dangerous-chapter-4-beyond-exploration-audio
 
Description News Article on the Sounds of Space 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed by Maddie Stone of the Earther, an online environmental news website, about our sounds of space project at BAS. This resulted in an article in the Earther entitled "Listen to the creepy noises picked up by a space weather station in Antarctica". This article has had over 64,900 views. The article included links to vlf recordings from Halley Antarctica, the most popular of which has received over 50,000 hits.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://gizmodo.com/listen-to-the-creepy-noises-picked-up-at-a-space-weathe-1831234519
 
Description Sounds of Space at Cambridge Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This activity took place at Anglia Ruskin University as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. It included included a scientific presentation on the sounds of space, followed by a performance with animation, contemporary dance and soundscapes, and finished with a question and answer session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/event/cambridge-science-festival-sounds-of-space/
 
Description Sounds of Space at the British Antarctic Survey 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This activity took place at the British Antarctic Survey. It included included a scientific presentation on the sounds of space, followed by a performance with live music, animation, contemporary dance and soundscapes, and finished with a question and answer session. The event was live-streamed and has since had over 11,500 views on the BAS Youtube channel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/event/sounds-of-space-performance/