The UK government is launching a round-the-clock space weather forecasting system in partnership with the Met Office, which will make the country one of a just a handful monitoring the weather between Earth’s atmosphere and the Sun.
The service will be run by the Met Office thanks to a £4.6 million investment by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, and will aim to protect national infrastructure. It equals to approximately one thousandth of the science budget, although it is being drawn from a separate pool of money, said Science Minister David Willetts, speaking at a press conference.
Space forecasts will start in spring 2014, but it will be autumn before the service is operating fully. The money will primarily be spent on the forecast bench, as well as a team of people that will collaborate with academia to make sure the latest research and knowledge is being properly relayed to the forecasters. Phil Evans from the Met Office claims the system will be cost effective as it will rely on pre-existing infrastructure, including the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, which will take us closer to the sun than we’ve ever been before.
The main aim of the service is to offer UK-centric advice, but it will also be part of a larger international effort. The US already has its own space weather monitoring service, but has approached the UK to try and combine efforts. The Met Office will be working with external partners including the British Antarctic Survey and NoAA Space Weather Prediction Centre, in the hope that the forecasting service will be able to benefit a wide range of sectors, as well as potentially be commercialised.
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