Press release archive: 2011

Finnish space research – the best in Europe

9.6.2011 9:10

The European Union's Seventh Framework Programme arranged the third call for proposals in space research in 2009. The total sum allocated was 114 million euros, of which about eight million came to Finland. Roughly half of this, or four million euros, was granted to the Kumpula Space Centre, which is the cooperation organisation run by the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the University of Helsinki for space research.

Photo: ESA

Photo: ESA

In proportion to Finland’s population or funding share, the share of project funding received by Finnish researchers is the largest within the EU. Five out of the nine projects are led from the Kumpula Space Centre. Since the decisions on funding were based on the scientific merits of the applications, the result indicates that the quality of Finnish research exceeds the European average.

Funding for space travel and for studying space weather

Three of the projects that received funding in the application round of 2009 are developing new technology for space travel and for the use of measurement instruments located in space.
• ESAIL constructs thin, conductive wires for the electric sail, as well as components needed for spreading the wires to make the sail. The electric sail is an invention devised at the Finnish Meteorological Institute in 2006. It enables space travel without fuel by making use of the thrust of particles streaming from the Sun, i.e. the solar wind.
• E-SQUID develops superconductive signal amplifiers that are increasingly sensitive and improve the image quality of x-ray and infrared detectors. They can be used, for instance, in research satellites to detect dim radiation from distant objects existing in the young universe.
• RITD brings some of the technology from Mars research back to the Earth: the inflatable heat shield and the small brake parachute developed for spacecraft to Mars are converted so that they can be used in the thicker atmosphere of the Earth. These lightweight structures provide an inexpensive way of returning material from an orbit to the Earth.

Space weather refers to electromagnetic phenomena caused mainly by particles given off by the Sun and other active events. These may pose a radiation risk or may cause disruptions in technical systems. Two projects deal with this theme:

• EURISGIC maps the risks that interference streams caused by space weather events pose to European power networks. In addition, the Meteorological Institute’s magnetosphere simulation is accelerated so that it can be used for forecasting space weather disruptions.
• SPACECAST studies how the high-energy particles occurring in connection with space weather events get their dangerously high energy. This information can help astronauts and satellites to protect against particle bursts.

In space research, the multitude of observational data often poses a bigger problem than any scarcity of information. The measurement data produced by various satellites and ground observation networks are scattered around the world behind different access practices. As many as four of the projects now started aim at making research more efficient by gathering an exhaustive collection of material on one research field from various sources and by saving this material on one Internet server. The material is freely available to all scientists through an easy-to-use www interface. In addition to observational material, the servers will provide supplementary material, such as simulations, analysis software and lists of interesting timelines. Also known as virtual observatories, these material banks deal with the following topics:

• CryoLand: snow and ice cover on the northern hemisphere
• ECLAT: The Earth’s magnetosphere and the related phenomena, e.g. auroras
• IMPEx: Planets and other objects in the Solar System
• SEPServer: Particle emissions from the Sun and the resulting high-energy particles

Additional information:

Kumpula Space Centre:
Professor Hannu Koskinen, tel. +358 9 191 50675, Hannu.E.Koskinen@helsinki.fi

CryoLand: Finnish Meteorological Institute, Research Professor Jouni Pulliainen, tel. +358 50 589 5821, jouni.pulliainen@fmi.fi
Eclat: Finnish Meteorological Institute, Head of Group Kirsti Kauristie, tel. +358 9 1929 4637, kirsti.kauristie@fmi.fi
ESAIL: Finnish Meteorological Institute, Research Manager Pekka Janhunen, tel. +358 9 1929 4635, pekka.janhunen@fmi.fi
E-SQUID: University of Helsinki, Docent Juhani Huovelin, tel. +3589 1912 2948, juhani.huovelin@helsinki.fi
Eurisgig: Finnish Meteorological Institute, Research Scientist Ari Viljanen, tel. +358 9 1929 4668, ari.viljanen@fmi.fi
IMPEx: Finnish Meteorological Institute, Head of Group Esa Kallio, tel. +358 9 1929 4636, esa.kallio@fmi.fi
RITD: Finnish Meteorological Institute, Head of Group Ari-Matti Harri, tel. +358 50 337 5632, ari-matti.harri@fmi.fi
SEPServer: University of Helsinki, Lecturer Rami Vainio, tel. +358 9 1915 0670, rami.vainio@helsinki.fi
SPACECAST: Professor Hannu Koskinen, tel. +358 9 191 50675, Hannu.E.Koskinen@helsinki.fi