UK to lead SMILE space mission

Posted on 20 Nov 2017 and read 588 times
UK to lead SMILE space missionUK teams will lead an international solar-terrestrial and space weather mission, taking on the development of a major science instrument, thanks to £3 million of funding from the UK Space Agency.

This will support academics working on SMILE (the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer) — a European Space Agency (ESA) (www.esa.int) science mission being delivered jointly with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and due to launch in 2021.

SMILE will address fundamental gaps in knowledge of the solar-terrestrial relationship by providing, for the first time ever, global imaging of the Earth’s magnetosphere and its dynamic response to the solar wind (charged particles streaming from the Sun).

The magnetosphere is a vast region around our planet that protects us from solar wind and cosmic particle radiation. The Earth’s magnetosphere is the strongest of all the ‘rocky planets’ in our solar system, and its protective role is thought to have played a key role in the Earth’s habitability.

SMILE will provide a step change in understanding its behaviour, and it will serve a broad range of research communities, including solar, fundamental physics, heliophysics, and planetary sciences.

SMILE will also provide crucial improvements to the modelling of space weather, which is recognised in the Government’s National Risk Register as a key disruptive threat to UK national technological infrastructure.

Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “Satellites, power grids and communications networks are integral to our modern lives.

“Through this funding, we are ensuring that UK academics continue to lead international research in solar-terrestrial science and space weather.

“This will help us gain a greater understanding of its causes and behaviour, helping us to better prepare and protect our vital infrastructure from its effects.”

The UK Space Agency’s £3 million investment package will support three UK academic groups for the next two years and is planned to be extended to support the mission throughout its development.

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