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Space weather Operational Airline Risks Service


Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), University College London (UCL)

Technical Group

Ionospheric Effects & Activity Forecast

SDA objective

Development of a Virtual Airline Space Weather Service Model through Operational Risk Modeling of Space Weather Impacts.


  • Predictions of the radiation risk to humans onboard aeroplanes and onboard avionicsfor agiven route.
  • Forecasts of the impact of space weather effects on HF communications.

Link to Project WebSite

SDA description

Space Weather is a term that refers to the influence on technological systems of conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, etc. The effects of Space Weather are widespread, but the significance of their impact varies for different systems and geographical locations. One sector of industry that is affected that is of immediate concern to the general population is the aviation industry.

Envisaged advancements in aircraft design, performance and avionics systems, plus the likely development of a satellite-based airspace management system to meet the expected growth in demand for air travel, all mean that airline operations will become more susceptible to Space Weather risks.

This susceptibility is in many areas, most of which will be covered by this proposal. The dangers to health caused by the exposure to Cosmic Radiation are already the subject of European legislation and an area of intense study. Beside the health risks, the industry is subject to other types of risk from space weather events, including radiation damage to avionics, loss of GPS signals used for navigation, and interference to communications.

This proposal assesses the quantifiable risks and the impacts the airline industry can expect to see on current and future commercial operations. It will then develop a prototype service for the airlines through operational risk modelling.

Proposed Research

The study has two phases covering different aspects of the project. Phase I involves an industry survey to ascertain the level of knowledge and understanding of Space Weather and its hazards, and the risk assessment of the Space Weather hazards and their impacts. Each hazard will be investigated, and probability and risk factors derived, and then an assessment made on the operation of a “virtual airline”.

In Phase II, using these assessments derived from the surveys, etc, the requirements for Space Weather data and information that will be determined. Upon this we will design and evaluate a prototype model of an Airline Space Weather Service. This model will provide a clear statement of all the necessary components, information, regulatory structure and safety standards required within the airline industry.

It is envisaged this approach will aid the development of the required services from the Space Weather science community. It is our intention to fully integrate SOARS with the Space Weather European Network (SWENET), and other networks and Grids that could supply the necessary information for a forecasting service.


  • Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), University College London (UCL)
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. (VAA)
  • QinetiQ
  • ESYS Ltd
  • UK Met Office
  • National Physical Laboratory (NPL)

Contact / Manager

R. D. Bentley


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