ORBITALS (Outer Radiation Belt Injection, Transport, Acceleration and Loss Satellite)

Information

Space storms in the outer atmosphere are created by explosions on the surface of the Sun.Matter from these explosions trigger the acceleration of electrons to significant fractions of the speed of light. What is not known is how these particles are accelerated to such high speeds and thus how the severe radiation environment is created. The proposed ORBITALS Mission will seek to finally answer the question of how the socalled ‘killer electrons’ are generated immediately above our heads in the Earth’s outer atmosphere.

There are more than 350 telecommunication satellites currently operating in geosynchronous orbit. Located about 35,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, these satellites orbit at the same rate the Earth rotates making them ideal for television, pager and other global communication applications. However, these satellites are vulnerable to the so-called ‘killer electrons’ produced by space storms as the electrons bury themselves into sensitive electronic components on-board.

For example, in May 1998, the galaxy 4 satellite failed, silencing about 80 per cent of the pager traffic in the United States. In January 1994, Anik E-1 and Anik E-2 satellites, built and operated by Telesat Canada, were damaged by space weather effects due to long periods of bombardment by large numbers of very high energy electrons, affecting nation-wide television and news-gathering services.