Scientists make space weather forecasts for Venus

09.06.2014

For the first time the European Space Agency (ESA) engaged in regular forecasts of space weather for spacecraft, rotating in orbit of another planet.

If the spacecraft is going to dive into the depths of another planet’s atmosphere, you need to know the latest data about everything that can affect the flight path. And if this planet is Venus, it means that it requires on-line reports on the solar activity, because it can have a profound effect on such conditions as atmospheric density and radiation zone of the planet.

Starting from this May the ground controllers of the Venus Express apparatus have been receiving daily reports on the solar activity, compiled by experts of the Space Weather Coordination Centre / SSCC.

Now, when Venus Express completes its eight-year science mission, such reports are particularly important, because the satellite team is conducting a campaign of «aerobraking», which according to the plans will take more than one week.

The Sun status can affect the Venus atmosphere, which in turn can influence the Venus Express trajectory when the apparatus will be passing through the atmosphere.

As explained by the team experts, they do not think that they will have to change the orbit of aerobraking, which is now built on the calculations of the «typical» solar activity, however, these reports of space weather allow scientists to better understand the «anomalous behavior» of the spacecraft, if this behavior will be observed. And in case of emergencies the experts will have better emergency response capability. For example, if astrocompass gets high-dose irradiation.

Data about the space weather is the information from a variety of sources including satellite ESA Proba-2 and other crafts orbiting the Sun of both American and European space agencies.