Open Cosmos, a UK-based space weather constellation, has been awarded funding by the European Space Agency (ESA)

On May 27, Open Cosmos, a small satellite company based in the United Kingdom, announced that the European Space Agency had awarded it funding to develop proposals for a space weather monitoring program. ESA has awarded a $5.6 million (a €5.2 million) deal to Open Cosmos, the technical head for a European alliance of engineering, scientific, and academic firms, for the proposed three-satellite NanoMagSat network.

The concept of NanoMagSat aims to enhance assessments of the magnetic field, which does protect the Earth from energetic charged particles that are incoming, as well as the ionospheric environment, that represents a threat to satellites and essential terrestrial infrastructure owing to space weather risks.

Over the next 18 months, Open Cosmos will utilize the cash to de-risk technology on the ground, according to Florian Deconinck, who is the vice president of institutional collaborations and future missions.

They will then offer a mission proposal that might be developed in three years for under €30 million. NanoMagSat, according to Deconinck, will have more sensors and better spatial as well as temporal coverage compared to the ESA’s Swarm satellites, that have been monitoring Earth’s magnetic field and ionosphere since 2013.

Swarm is a $300 million mission that consists of three 468-kilogram (kg) satellites in close-polar orbit. The Swarm satellites were only meant to last four years.

Each NanoMagSat will be 24–30 kilograms in weight, which is typical of a 16-unit cubesat. Only one will be sent into polar orbit, with the other two inclined at 60 degrees. According to Deconinck, this would allow NanoMagSat to “recover phenomena on quicker timescales” than Swarm, lowering 4-month temporal revisits at latitudes spanning 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south to just over one month.

NanoMagSat will contain magnetic-field-detecting magnetometers as well as a variety of other experiments, including GNSS occultation sensors for studying the ionosphere.

While the Swarm satellites don’t possess GNSS occultation sensors, they do have other sensors that NanoMagSat won’t have, such as an accelerometer for detecting non-gravitational accelerations induced by solar radiation as well as other variables.

NanoMagSat will be able to enable correct navigation and offer statistics for geophysical surveying of the minerals, in addition to monitoring circumstances that influence space weather, according to Open Cosmos. NanoMagSat was chosen as a contender for a Scout mission of ESA in 2020, a new Earth observation project aimed at demonstrating how smallsats may improve the scientific value of data from current spacecraft.

Scout missions get a 30-million-euro budget — encompassing deployment and in-orbit commissioning — and take three years from concept to launch. Deconinck stated NanoMagSat’s polar-orbiting satellite “would be deployed in an orbit coordinated with the Swarm-B, benefiting from a greater coverage than either constellation taken independently” if Swarm is still operational when NanoMagSat launches. Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie are the names of the three identical satellites that make up Swarm (or Swarm A, B, and C).

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