Ionospheric situational awareness for critical infrastructures

As part of its efforts to support space situational awareness, NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme is co-funding a project to establish a unique network of existing high-precision ground-based ionospheric sounders in Europe which allows coordinated monitoring of the ionosphere to predict the propagation of waves and warn users of any irregularities.

The ionosphere is a charged (“ionised”) region of the upper atmosphere that affects waves travelling through it. Phenomena originating from the sun and from lower atmospheric layers significantly disturb the ionosphere posing a threat to peace and security as this may result in the malfunctioning of critical infrastructure in the field of international communication, navigation, surveillance, money and stock trade, air travel and power supply. In some cases, such as radio communication and broadcasting systems, the ionosphere is an unavoidable part of the system; in other cases, such as the transionospheric radio communication and navigation systems, the ionosphere is a fundamental nuisance. In both instances, an account of the ionosphere is crucial to support the smooth operation of critical infrastructures on which our modern high-tech world relies.