Three UK companies are set to help the European Space Agency (ESA) in the concept development for a future mission that seeks to reduce the global risk of damage caused by space weather.

As part of the ESA mission, a spacecraft is expected to be put at a fixed point away from the line between the Sun and the Earth, called the 5th Lagrange point, to monitor the rapidly changing solar activity and provide early warnings of possibly harmful space weather.

The three UK companies engaging in the project are Airbus UK, STFC RAL Space and UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

“It’s a great example of the value of our work as a member of ESA to science and industry in the UK.”

Airbus UK will lead a consortium for the overall development of the mission, with a focus on mission operations, the spacecraft platform, and its interface with the instruments.

STFC RAL Space will lead the development of instruments to be used to monitor the Sun and heliosphere, while UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory will lead the development of solar wind measurement equipment.

Germany’s OHB will also lead a fourth consortium that intends to create a competing platform for the mission.

All proposals of the platform will be evaluated by ESA.

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UK Space Agency chief executive Dr Graham Turnock said: “The UK is a world leader in providing space weather forecasts and this mission will help the Met Office’s Space Weather Operations Centre improve this further.

“It’s a great example of the value of our work as a member of ESA to science and industry in the UK.”

Based on the results of the concept studies to be carried out by the UK companies and other parties, the ESA will select a final design for the spacecraft and its instruments.

The results are expected to be available in approximately 18 months.