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Airbus Awarded Vigil Space Weather Spacecraft Mission

Vigil spacecraft by Airbus
Vigil spacecraft. Credit: Airbus

Ibadan, 24 May 2024. – The European Space Agency has selected Airbus to design and build the space weather forecasting satellite Vigil, the first operational mission in ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Space Safety Program (S2P). The spacecraft will give vital extra warning to Earth about incoming solar storms and coronal mass ejections which can potentially disrupt satellites in orbit and electronic and power distribution systems on Earth.

Vigil will orbit at Lagrange point L5 on the same orbit as the Earth, 150 million km behind it as the Earth orbits the Sun. This will consequently enable Vigil to see the Sun as it rotates and the size and speed of solar weather heading towards the Earth. Data from Vigil could provide notice of four to five days of solar winds streaming toward Earth. In addition, Vigil will complement other satellites monitoring the Sun from closer to the Earth from its particular vantage point.

The Spacecraft will include a compact coronagraph from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, a heliographic imager from Leonardo SpA and a photo-magnetospheric field Imager from the Max Planck Institute. In addition, Vigil will carry a plasma analyzer from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in London and a magnetometer from Imperial College London. NASA is also providing Vigil’s sixth instrument, an extreme ultraviolet imager.

Speaking on the mission, Patrick Wood, Head of Space Systems UK, Airbus Defence and Space said, “Vigil is one of the most exciting and important space missions that will not only improve our understanding of the Sun’s behaviour but crucially provide us with earlier warning and greater precision about potentially damaging solar weather. Space weather forecasters will be able to see what is coming from the Sun and provide more accurate alerts.”

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