Radio communication

How space weather affects navigation satellites and radio communications

An illustration showing some of NASA’s many satellites in Earth orbit Credit: NASA

SELANGOR, Malaysia– TECHNICAL – Space weather refers to activities that occur in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere at altitudes greater than 50 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

Unlike typical Earth rain or snow, space weather is made up of activities that occur on the surface of the sun. This is a major factor in determining the state of space weather and its impact on technology, both in space and on Earth.

Professor Ir Dr Mardina Abdullahdeputy director of the Institute for Climate Change and an associate member of the Space Science Center at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) have embarked on research into space weather to determine its risk to various technologies, especially those that rely on satellite navigation and skywave radio signals.

According to Professor Mardina, solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that occur on the surface of the sun facing Earth are among the solar activities that have a direct impact on space weather.

She added that the ionosphere, a critical upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere, is also important for understanding the effects of space weather on the transmission of radio signals such as skywave signals and navigation satellites.

“Due to the ability of the ionosphere to refract waves, radio signals can be transmitted over a greater distance.

“However, the weak natural state of the ionospheric layer makes it vulnerable to recurring phenomena such as solar flares, geomagnetic storms, solar eclipses and lightning,” she said.

Professor Mardina noted that the use of satellite radio navigation systems, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), has increased dramatically over the past decade, especially among road users.

She added that there are several ways space weather affects GPS function, making it less accurate and even causing signal loss due to changes in the density structure of the ionosphere.

“The ionosphere layer changes with the rotation of the earth, causing day and night, making it more complex and affecting the radio signal communication system.

“The density of electrons in the ionosphere layer determines the refractive index of the ionosphere. If there is a disturbance in the ionospheric layer that causes rapid changes in the index of refraction, the signal with a specific frequency that passes through the ionosphere may be reflected, refracted, scattered or even disappear before reaching its recipients. on Earth,” she said. .

Professor Mardina further explained that although space weather is a relatively new field of study, it plays an important role in ensuring the comfort and well-being of life on Earth.

“This is because human life today is synonymous with the rapid development of technology, which is highly dependent on space technology.

“Space technology is based on satellites and radio signals, which are easily affected by space weather, a phenomenon that refers to changes in the near-Earth atmosphere.

“As a result, space weather affects the refraction of radio signals in Earth’s atmosphere, further affecting the transmission of celestial signals and disrupting everyday communications,” she added.

She concluded that expertise in the field of ionospheric research needs to be expanded in Malaysiabecause foreign researchers are interested in Asia who are always looking to improve the accuracy and precision of their satellite navigation systems such as Beidou-China, QZSS-Japan and GAGAN-India.

Professor Mardina is a stellar scholar who has published over 200 scientific papers during her academic career. His research interests and areas of expertise include space weather studies, ionospheric research, satellite navigation and artificial intelligence.

SOURCE University Kebangsaan Malaysia