ESC Ionospheric Weather

Ionospheric Weather Expert Service Centre (I-ESC)

Mission Statement

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EGNOS RIMS antenna measuring ionospheric GPS perturbations (© ESA)

Ionosphere Weather

Ionospheric Space Weather effects can adversely degrade the performance of radio systems in communication, space-based navigation and remote sensing. Thus, navigation signals transmitted by Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) - such as GPS or the European system Galileo - travelling through the ionosphere are delayed, refracted and diffracted by the highly variable ionospheric plasma. Since performance parameters such as accuracy, availability, continuity and integrity of GNSS signals are crucial in safety of life and precise positioning applications, detection, monitoring and prediction of ionospheric effects are important for mitigating the impact. The ionosphere depends on Space Weather effects and by itself contributes to Space Weather conditions, but this dependence also provides a unique opportunity to use dual frequency GNSS measurements to derive robust and accurate information on the ionospheric state under quiet and perturbed Space Weather conditions. This integrated, information-based approach benefits the operation of space-based systems within communication, navigation and remote sensing.

Thermosphere Weather

Thermosphere density is an essential parameter impacting the orbit of satellites in the Earth or. This ultimately leads to a shorter lifetime of the satellite. The intensity of solar irradiance and geomagnetic activity drive the thermosphere density. Both vary with the solar rotation and the 11 years solar cycle impact the thermosphere density. During space weather impacts, the thermosphere density can change significantly within a few hours due to electrodynamic processes that are strongly coupled to the ionosphere and magnetosphere. The increase of thermosphere density (which can be up to a few hundred percent) causes a decrease of the orbit altitude of the satellites orbiting in the thermosphere. The forecast of thermosphere density a few hours until month ahead is important for satellite operation and mission planning.