The European Space Agency (ESA) has entered an agreement with the Canadian Space Agency to convert the existing Swarm constellation into a four-satellite mission to obtain additional information on space weather and features such as the aurora borealis.

As part of the deal, ESA’s three identical Swarm satellites, which have been in orbit since 2013, will be integrated with Canada’s Cassiope satellite.

The existing Swarm satellites currently provide a range of information regarding the origin of Earth’s magnetic field and how it protects the planet’s habitats from dangerous electrically charged atomic particles in the solar wind.

“We embrace the opportunity to include e-POP in the Swarm mission.”

Cassiope is equipped with three instrument packages, one of which is e-POP, and supplies information on space weather that complements the information provided by Swarm.

Materialised through ESA’s Third-Party Mission programme, the latest deal will change e-POP’s name to Echo to become the fourth element of the Swarm constellation that features Alpha, Bravo and Charlie satellites.

ESA Earth observation programmes director Josef Aschbacher said: “This is a textbook example of how virtual constellations and collaborative initiatives can be realised, even deep into the missions’ exploitation phases.

“We embrace the opportunity to include e-POP in the Swarm mission, especially because it is clear that the more data we get, the better the picture we have of complex space weather dynamics.”

Integration of e-POP with the Swarm constellation is expected to allow the global scientific community to carry out various new scientific investigations in the fields of magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling, including Earth’s magnetic field and related current systems, upper-atmospheric dynamics and aurora dynamics.

In addition to helping the Swarm mission, e-POP will continue to offer information for its original science investigations.