SWIMMR (Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk) is a £20 million, four-year programme that will improve the UK's capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. There will be an emphasis on space radiation, which can affect aircraft systems, changes in the upper atmosphere, affecting communications, and surges in the current in power grids and other ground-level systems. These are significant risks to the infrastructures we rely on in daily life and are recorded in the UK's National Risk Register.
SWIMMR will develop and deploy new instruments, models and services to support the UK space weather community and the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre. This programme will significantly add to the UK's capability to predict and mitigate the hazards of space weather, as well as providing a basis for wider international collaboration over the four year lifetime of the proposal and beyond.
The funding forms part of the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), delivered by the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI's investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities. The programme is a collaboration led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) with NERC and supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Defence. The programme has been outlined in close association with the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC).
The programme will be delivered through a series of activities managed by either STFC or NERC. The STFC funding component will be delivered via a mixture of open calls for research projects and commissioned work under standard public sector procurement rules. Both types of activity will directly help improve the ability of the Met Office to predict space weather events so as to reduce their potential impact.
SWIMMR SPF Kick-Off Event: November 26th 2019
The kick-off event for the Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Study (one of the Wave 2 programmes of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund) took place in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday November 26th. Seventy-five people attended the event, representing a range of academic institutions, as well as representatives from industry, government and public sector research establishments such as the UK Met Office.
The morning session of the meeting consisted of five presentations, introducing the programme and its relevance to government, the Research Councils and the Met Office, as well as describing details of the potential calls. The presentations were as follows:
During the lunch break, the Announcement of Opportunity for the five NERC SWIMMR calls was issued on the NERC web site. The afternoon therefore began with a brief introduction by Jacky Wood to the NERC Announcement of Opportunity, and the particular terms and conditions which it contained.
The remainder of the afternoon session was spent in a Question and Answer session in which attendees were able to ask questions to the speakers about the nature of the programme and the potential timing of future calls, and finally to an informal discussion session, in which participants gathered into groups to discuss the opportunities for funding which had been outlined.
SWIMMR “Bidders Day" Information Meeting: December 19th 2019
Following the announcements of opportunity for the five SWIMMR NERC programmes, a meeting took place at the Met Office HQ in Exeter on December 19th to present potential bidders with more information on the projects being offered and to allow them to ask questions on these and other aspects of the programme. About 40 people attended. As with the SWIMMR Kick-Off Event, the morning was mainly devoted to presentations about the programme and the afternoon to group discussions among the potential bidders. The talks given were as follows:
The SWIMMR programme will facilitate a significant improvement in the UK's monitoring and forecasting capabilities for space weather, to mitigate those aspects with the highest potential for impact on economic and societal activities. This is needed because of UK's ever-increasing reliance on modern technology; not just our growing dependence on space-based systems for communications, global positioning and time-keeping but our aspirations to become a leading space-faring nation, based on capabilities to both launch and support UK-licensed space assets.
As well as operation of satellites and other space hardware, the programme addresses space weather effects at lower altitudes, such as radiation effects on aviation, and on the Earth's surface, such as Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GICs) in power grids. When realised in the correct way, the benefits will be manifest in both the governmental and commercial sectors. This ability to produce a world-leading capability for space weather forecasting and mitigation will not only safeguard our considerable national investment in space-based infrastructure (now part of CNI), but also confirm the UK's reputation as an international leader, with potential to collaborate with key partners internationally.
SWIMMR has the following high level objectives, each of which includes a number of lower level objectives:
High level objective 1: Mitigate the potential radiation hazards of space weather to satellites and aviation operations
- Produce and operate one or more miniaturised radiation monitors for use in satellite and aerospace applications;
- Facilitate the testing and modelling of the response of technological systems to radiation;
- Deploy and operate a network of ground-based radiation monitors to better quantify the radiation hazards for the aerospace industry;
- Produce an updated and improved set of models for nowcasting and forecasting radiation effects on spacecraft to be used in services delivered by MOSWOC;
- Produce an updated and improved set of models for nowcasting and forecasting radiation effects on air traffic and other aerospace users to be used in services delivered by MOSWOC;
- Produce an updated and improved set of products and models for forecasting the impact of atmospheric drag on spacecraft to be used in services delivered by MOSWOC.
High level objective 2: Mitigate potential space weather effects on communication and global positioning
- Improve the UK modelling of the ionospheric effects on radio communications (both HF and trans-ionospheric propagation) to be used in services delivered by MOSWOC.
High level objective 3: Mitigate the potential risks of space weather to electric power distribution
- Produce an updated and improved set of products and services for forecasting the impact of Geomagnetically Induced Currents on power grids and make them available through MOSWOC;
- Improve and operationalise the current suite of models for predicting the evolution of the solar wind from the Sun to the L1 Lagrange point.
In addition to this, the project has the following overarching objectives:
- Establish a world leading UK system for space weather modelling and forecasting;
- Position the UK as a global leader in monitoring and mitigating effects of space weather;
- Develop a framework for supporting the transition of models and data sets from research in the academic community to operational use for space weather forecasting by MOSWOC;
- Produce an updated space weather impact assessment study, building on the Royal Academy of Engineering report of 2013.
The SWIMMR proposal originated from a submission to the STFC exercise in “Developing a World-Class Programme", which was undertaken in June 2018. The idea was further developed for submission to Wave 2 of UKRI's Strategic Priorities Fund in discussions between STFC, NERC and Met Office, with support from the Chief Scientists of the Department of Business, Education and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Defence. The business case was submitted to BEIS in March 2019, outline approval was given in June 2019, with final approval from the BEIS Project and Investment Committee in August of this year. The programme was originally planned to run from April 2019 to March 2023.
Awards, facts & figures
2019 - 2023
Can I apply for a grant?
Applications are currently
being invited for the SWIMMR S5 project on "networkable instruments for
ground-level neutron monitoring". Closing date for applications is April 13th 2021.
The overall budget for the programme is £19.9 million, of which approximately half will be awarded by STFC through a mixture of open calls and commissioned work. The other half of the funding will be delivered by NERC, through an open call(s) process. For a link to the equivalent announcement from NERC, click here.
SWIMMR STFC Projects
SWIMMR Project S1: Improved in-situ radiation measurements for space and aviation
Radiation hazards to spacecraft and aircraft are among the most high-profile space weather risks in terms of government priority. There is a need both to improve the modelling and prediction of these risks (NERC projects N1 & N2) and also to verify and improve such predictions by providing more monitoring capabilities. This means producing and deploying a number of space borne and airborne sensors able to provide near real-time data for the civil sector.
The S1 project will produce a technical solution to address the paucity of radiation measurements in critical regions of the terrestrial magnetosphere as well as within the Earth's atmosphere. Currently, continuous space weather radiation measurements are really only available from spacecraft in GEO orbits, with an almost complete absence of sustained measurements at lower altitudes (including the highly variable region around MEO). There measurements are of critical importance, especially for the new generation of spacecraft expected to be operating at MEO.
Firstly, it will commission and build radiation monitors for space and aerospace using components with recognised heritage, and fly these in order to return new data streams.
Secondly, the project will design a new generation of novel miniaturised radiation monitors, developing these to the prototype stage, and further if funding permits. The new sensor will ultimately be commercialised and mass-produced (outside of the SWIMMR programme), to greatly increase the availability of radiation data. The aim is to report on the functionality of a demonstration model of a new design of radiation monitor at validation standard TRL4-5 as defined by ESA TEC-SHS/5551/MG/ap v1.6 Technology Readiness Levels Handbook for Space Applications.
This project has three distinct strands, namely, Space Trusted, Aviation Trusted and Space Miniaturised.
SWIMMR STFC Project S2: Technology testing and modelling
The overall scope of the S2 task is:- “To utilise ISIS facility's ChipIR beamline to test commercial electronics against the radiation effects of space weather. To establish the UK as a leading provider and source of expertise in commercial testing of electronics against radiation effects.
SWIMMR STFC Project S3 Development of a Research to Operations Infrastructure
The primary objectives specific to S3 R2O (research to operations) are:
- Establish a world leading UK system for space weather modelling and forecasting
- Develop a framework for supporting the transition of space weather models and data sets from research in the academic community to operational use for space weather forecasting by the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre MOSWOC
- This framework will allow verification & validation and reliability testing to be done by model developers in their own institutions, which will ease the process of operational implementation at MOSWOC.
This framework links to other areas of SWIMMR, particularly NERC projects N1 and N2.
SWIMMR STFC Project S4 Space Weather Empirical Ensemble Package (SWEEP)
The sun's atmosphere flows into interplanetary space as the solar wind. Solar eruptions cause large variations in this flow that can cause huge disruption to Earth, economy and society. This disruption can be reduced given advance warning of severe space weather, and the main purpose of this project is to improve this warning system through forecasts.
Space weather forecasting is a relatively new field, and the UK Met Office has a dedicated unit providing forecasts and alerts for various organisations. The forecasts are based on telescope measurements of the Sun and its extended atmosphere (the corona). These data are continually monitored for large eruptive events which may impact Earth. The data also drive large-scale computational models of the solar wind, giving a forecast of conditions at Earth. This project is tasked with providing a new system that will run alongside the current system, and provide certain key improvements.
The S4 project is called Space Weather Empirical Ensemble Package (SWEEP). SWEEP takes in data from multiple telescopes observing the Sun and the corona, and uses novel methods to create multiple three-dimensional maps of the coronal magnetic field, the coronal density, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Thus there are multiple, independent streams of information based on different types of data and methods. These multiple streams are used to drive a highly efficient model of the solar wind, giving multiple forecasts at Earth.
SWEEP will be a fully automated and modular system, and by the end of the project will be fully operational at the Met Office.
The governance of the SWIMMR programme encompasses a number of different bodies which undertake different roles:
The Programme Board (PB) is responsible for providing the strategic direction for the programme and overseeing the delivery of the programme's objectives. The PB meets monthly and is the ultimate decision-making authority for the programme. It is comprised of representatives from UKRI and Departmental Partners, together with a representative of the Met Office, the chair of the SWIMMR Strategic Advisory Group, a co-chair of the BEIS Space Environment Impacts Expert Group and the Project Director (from STFC).
Strategic Advisory Group
The SWIMMR Strategic Advisory Group supports the work of the Programme Board, through the provision of high-level scientific, technical and strategic advice. Its remit covers; liaison with the various scientific, technical and industrial stakeholders of the programme, advice to the Programme Board about potential opportunities to align the activities of the SWIMMR programme with synergistic programmes elsewhere (such as other space weather initiatives), and recommendations on ways to implement the SWIMMR outcomes in a way that maximises the impact of the programme. The Group has formalised the link with and provides support to the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.
The membership of the SPF SWIMMR Strategic Advisory Group includes at least one representative from each of academia, government and industry. It covers the three main areas of the programme (radiation, communications and GICs) and is as follows:
- David Southwood (Imperial College, London (Emeritus, Chair))
- David Gibbs (Civil Aviation Authority)
- Mark Gibbs (UK Met Office)
- Keith Groves (Boston College, USA)
- Ewan Haggarty (Airbus UK)
- Matthew Johns-Chapman (Rolls Royce)
- Andrew Richards – (National Grid)
- Graham Routledge – Defence Science and Technology Labs (DSTL)
The group first met on 26th May 2020, and subsequently meets quarterly. It elects its own chair, who becomes a member of Programme Board. The Programme Manager attends, but does not vote. Project Managers attend as required.
The Programme Board and the Strategic Advisory Group meet 6-monthly in the form of a Governing Board. This is the highest level governance body.
The Secretariat is based at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. RAL will liaise with the programme governing bodies to ensure efficient delivery of programme activities, coordinate funding activities and provide administrative support to the Programme Board and Strategic Advisory Board.
For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries