Merlin warns of space weather hazards

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 June 2004




(2004), "Merlin warns of space weather hazards", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 76 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Merlin warns of space weather hazards

Merlin warns of space weather hazards

Keywords: Aerospace, Weather, Safety

A new product for monitoring solar flares and other space weather hazards will reportedly help operators using electronics in aerospace applications to react to adverse conditions more effectively.

The Merlin space weather hazard monitor is a small, low power instrument developed by research firm QinetiQ which weighs just 1 kg and can be fitted on all operational and experimental spacecraft. It provides real-time data and alarms when threat levels are high so that simple actions can then be taken to minimise risk – for example, satellite operators can delay complex operations until the threat reduces, increase staff alert levels or even shut down sensitive equipment as a precautionary measure. Aircraft may be able to change altitudes or routes.

The earth's surface is protected by the atmosphere from solar flares, but passengers and crews on commercial jets at high altitudes could receive exposure significantly greater than the equivalent of a chest X-ray often in excess of annual limits. “Space weather is a genuine concern for future aircraft and satellites since modern electronics is increasingly easy to upset and damage,” said Dr Clive Dyer, a Senior Space Consultant at QinetiQ. “When problems do occur they almost always come as a real surprise to the equipment's original designers. Merlin helps to diagnose any unexpected events as soon as possible which improves the quality and speed of decisions on corrective action.”

The space version of Merlin is available immediately, whilst an aircraft variant based on similar technology will be launched shortly. Several operators are already carrying out evaluations and the first commercial deployment is expected soon.

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