Significance of Space Weather Preparedness

Emergence of Satellite constellations

  • By 2030, the global space industry could add almost 50,000 new commercial satellites to the existing 5,000. These would include earth-observation satellites selling commercial imagery, telecom orbiters providing 5G and next-in-line 6G data services, and meteorological ones selling weather-forecasts and datasets. The increasing dependence of the digital economy on satellite constellations is spurring investment in this area.

Issues involved

  • The most important threat to the constellation of satellites will be the collisions between satellites.
  • Such collision could result in massive free-floating space debris.
  • A 2020 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report estimates that protecting satellites from space debris could cost 5-10% more per space mission.
  • Another threat to satellite constellations is that of extreme space weather events, and this cannot be addressed by space and digital players alone. It demands the attention of governments.

Areas of improvement:

  • Last October, the US Congress passed an Act that directs civilian and military agencies to reinforce national space weather forecasting abilities.
  • China transferred its meteorological, hydrological and space weather command from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general staff department to the PLA strategic support force, the latter being its new branch for cyber, space and e-warfare.

Indian perspective:

  • India’s economy is expected to become increasingly dependent on space- and ground-based commercial, civilian and military assets. These will be vulnerable to extreme space weather events.
  • India is progressing with its capital-intensive planetary exploration and human space-flight projects.
  • we must deploy across-the-board space-weather monitoring, forecasting and response systems designed to safeguard deep-space assets and protect our gaganauts.
  • Consequently, it is imperative for the government to develop and adopt space weather forecasts before initiating outer space activities. India, therefore, needs legislation like America’s to issues cross-ministerial directions.
  • The Indian scientific community operates numerous ground-based‘sun observing’ telescopes across India, and is well connected with its international peers.
  • In the coming months India is expected to launch Aditya-L1, a space-based solar observatory, with assistance from the Indian Space Research Organisation. The data generated by it will be crucial for India’s space weather monitoring ambitions.
  • But without a national policy backed by legislation,the scientific community would find it difficult to meet the strategic demands of the conjoined space and digital economies.

Conclusion

  • The enactment of a space weather law could help the country protect its digital and telecom systems that extend to outer space from destructive solar storms and intense solar and galactic radiation whiplashes.