Vulnerable technologies on Earth to be shielded from cosmic radiation
Scientists from Košice are presenting a unique project that will detect and predict disturbances responsible for communication link failures with satellites at the border between space and Earth. The service prototype is the result of cooperation between the Institute of Experimental Physics SAS (ÚEF SAS, v. v. i.), the TUKE Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics and the GlobalLogic Slovakia IT company. In Košice, this is the first collaboration when a scientific institution, a university and a private company worked on a solution that was financed and will be used in the future by the European Space Agency (ESA).
"You have something to be proud of!" a technical expert from ESA told us during the final inspection of the project. I am especially pleased that the service we have developed can be useful for the EU-wide space safety network and that we have prepared it thanks to the very effective cooperation of students and experts from the fields of science, education and the IT industry," sums up Šimon Mackovjak from the Department of Space Physics of the Institute of Experimental Physics SAS, who covered the scientific part and project management.
The service is called ASPIS (Autonomous Service for Prediction of Ionospheric Scintillation), and its main task is to monitor and predict the presence of the so-called ionospheric scintillations over the given territory. This is a risk that terrestrial receivers of navigation satellites (e.g. GPS or Galileo) have to face when damage or even signal loss occurs. It can have a negative effect on the precise determination of the position or time of the ground receiver, which is undesirable, for example, for transport systems.
"Everyone has seen the scintillation effect. For example, when you look at the night sky, it may seem to us that some stars are twinkling. This is caused by disturbances in the Earth's lower atmosphere, which thus affect the visible light coming to us from the stars. We communicate with satellites in the Earth's orbit using radio waves, and when they pass through the electrically charged ionosphere - the upper layer of the Earth's atmosphere, the scintillation effect can also occur. This effect is normally measured using ground receiver networks, we used specific data from Canada. We have developed an autonomous system for processing these data and calculating predictions of these events using machine learning," added the space physicist.
One of the innovative elements of the service is the use of machine learning to create predictions, namely a deep neural network with LSTM architecture. The development of the model was ensured by the team of Associate Professor Peter Butka of the FEI TUKE Department of Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence. The utilization of the so-called serverless architecture and cloud infrastructure prepared by IT experts from GlobalLogic Slovakia is also highly effective.
"Cooperation between organizations united in this way is exceptional but not surprising. We have been cooperating both with the university and with SAS for several years. The goal is a faster transfer of innovations between the parties involved and, last but not least, the sharing of knowledge," says Tibor Radačovský from GlobalLogic Slovakia, who participated in the creation of this cooperation.
Cooperation on an 18-month project is not the only thing that unites the individual parties. For several years, they have been building a community in Košice that connects space research and the most modern IT technologies. They have jointly organized summer schools, presented at EXPO Dubai, and published scientific articles. Currently, they are participating in the launch of the East Slovak Space Cluster.
"Even though our service is still only at the level of a prototype, colleagues from abroad are already showing interest. We have presented the service these past weeks and will continue to discuss it at seminars and conferences in Germany, the Netherlands and France, where we are trying to collect requirements directly from potential users. We will then move on to the next phase in order to increase the technological level and bring the service into common use. Aspis was a type of shield in ancient Greece. We believe that our ASPIS can protect vulnerable technologies from dangerous manifestations of space weather. I am really happy that we can work on these important and, at the same time, technologically interesting projects in Košice," concluded Šimon Mackovjak.
The service prototype is available via a graphical or application interface at https://aspis.services.
Prepared by Monika Tináková
Photo: Šimon Mackovjak