Solar Storms: Effects on Satellites

This story is a supplement to the feature "Bracing the Satellite Infrastructure for a Solar Superstorm" which was printed in the August 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Feeling the Full Brunt
The harshness of space takes a toll on satellites even at the best of times. A superstorm would cause years’ worth of damage within a few hours.

Solar particles and radiation puff up the atmosphere, increasing the drag forces on low-orbiting satellites.

How to Prepare
If a storm were on its way, we could do the following:

  • Satellite operators put off critical command sequences. During the storm itself, they monitor their birds and override any spurious commands.
  • GPS users switch to backup navigation systems.
  • Astronauts avoid space walks.

Illustrations by Melissa Thomas

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Celebrate Pi Approximation Day
with us!

Get 3 of our best-selling Pi topic issues
Plus a FREE Bonus Issue!

Add to your cart now for just $9.99 >


Email this Article