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Swarm set for continued success after 10 years in orbit

22 Nov 2023

ESA’s Swarm constellation
ESA’s Swarm constellation

ESA’s mission to unravel the mysteries of Earth’s magnetic field has just reached a decade of successful operations – and it is set to continue enabling novel scientific investigations into Earth’s natural processes for many years to come.

This impressive milestone and the future plans for the constellation will be highlighted at the Swarm 10 Year Anniversary and Science Conference, which will be held on 8-12 April 2024 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Swarm launched on 22 November 2013 as three identical spacecraft – named Alpha, Bravo and Charlie – on a mission to investigate Earth's geomagnetic field, by using sophisticated spaceborne magnetometers and other instruments.

Earlier this year ESA announced that Swarm will continue until at least 2025.

Earth’s magnetic field is an invisible shield that protects the planet from space weather and solar radiation. It is mostly generated by swirling, super-heated iron within the planet’s outer liquid core, but there are also other components – such as Earth’s crust, the ionosphere and the magnetosphere – that influence the overall signal.

The orbital configuration of the Swarm satellites enables the constellation to deliver high-quality information on each of these elements.

The force that protects the planet
The force that protects the planet

In 2018, ESA expanded the Swarm constellation with the addition of the e-POP instrument from Canada’s CASSIOPE (Cascade, Smallsat and Ionospheric Polar Explorer) satellite, which is known as Swarm Echo.

A decade after the constellation was first lofted into orbit, its continuously expanding timeseries has enabled numerous scientific discoveries, surpassing its initial scientific objectives and supporting many unforeseen applications.

Key research facilitated by Swarm includes mapping the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field between South America and West Africa, uncovering a jet stream in the planet’s core, and helping explain jerks in Earth’s magnetic field.

The upcoming conference will highlight areas in which the mission has made important scientific contributions, such as the dynamics of Earth’s core, lithospheric magnetisation, electromagnetic induction and oceans, thermospheric and ionospheric processes, magnetosphere coupling and space weather.

Presentations on the use of Swarm data for applications and demonstrations of novel scientific applications are also encouraged.

The conference will provide a forum for Swarm scientists and data users invited to share their achievements, review the mission’s success, and prepare for the continued use of Swarm in the future.

It will aim to support an international and collaborative approach to the exploitation of data, as well as to propose new scientific requirements, and to identify potential challenges that could be faced up until 2025 and beyond.

Abstract submissions and registration for the Swarm 10 Year Anniversary and Science Conference are open until 7 January 2024 and 1 February 2024, respectively.