The European Space Agency (ESA) has opened a new Space Weather Coordination Centre (SSCC) under the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Programme, in Belgium. SSCC. The centre, located at the “Space Pole” in Brussels, was inaugurated on April 3.
“With the SSCC inauguration, our SSA Programme is taking concrete steps to develop a European capability to operationally monitor space weather, enhance international cooperation and establish the effective distribution of information, warnings and alerts to users in economically vital sectors,” said ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations, Thomas Reiter.
The new SSCC will serve as the central access point to varied European space-weather expertise for different customers, including satellite operators, telecommunications and navigation companies, government agencies and research institutes. In addition, the centre includes the first European space weather helpdesk with rapid access to expert support on solar weather, ionospheric weather, the geomagnetic environment and the orbital radiation environment. SSCC receives space weather data from a series of specialized centres located throughout Europe. According to Reiter, the service will help to get the right information to the right people at the right time.
SSCC operators monitor the Sun, the Space, and Earth environments from a dedicated control room, for early detection of possible effects of space weather phenomena on vital infrastructure and activities. Space weather can be potentially harmful for numerous sectors, ranging from space-based telecommunications, broadcasting, weather services and navigation through to power distribution and terrestrial communications. SSCC will help in the mitigation of the possible risks affecting Earth coming from the Sun, and according to Juha-Pekka Luntama, Head of Space Weather activities at ESA’s SSA Programme office, this is the first step in helping to avoid these hazards in the future.
SSCC is operated and developed by the Royal Observatory Belgium, the Belgian Institute for Space Astronomy and two industrial partners, Space Applications Services SA/NV and Spacebel SA/NV. ESA is also preparing to inaugurate a new Near-Earth Object Data Centre at ESRIN, in Italy next month.