Scientists from Argentina, Belgium, Japan, Slovakia, Spain and Taiwan have expressed their support for the Czech SOVA space mission. The mission is led by OHB Czechspace in cooperation with the Czech Academy of Sciences and aims to send the largest Czech satellite into orbit in 2028 to collect data in the middle and upper parts of atmosphere. This data should significantly contribute to a better understanding of atmospheric processes, and as a result to more accurate and earlier forecasts of extreme weather. For example, torrential rains and storms. Moreover, they can contribute to early warnings of tsunamis. The impact of the SOVA mission would thus be global, helping the work of many scientific teams around the world.
The uniqueness of the SOVA (Satellite Observation of waVes in the Atmosphere) satellite is not only just its record weight, which is currently estimated to be around 180 kilograms. The unique significance of this mission lies primarily in its intention to investigate processes and detect atmospheric gravity waves in the area from the upper mesosphere to the maximum of the ionosphere, i.e. from around 60 to over 300 kilometres above the Earth's surface.
“This will allow us to observe regions where waves of specific properties propagate, and where they decay and transfer their energy and momentum to the surrounding air. SOVA can thus substantially complement our knowledge obtained from ground-based measurements. Another important aspect is the global coverage. In addition to the scientific contribution, measurements made by SOVA and other similar satellites may also find future applications in long-term forecast models, natural hazard mitigation systems or navigation, as illustrated by comments from a number of foreign scientists," explains Jaroslav Chum from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Why is the study of atmospheric gravity waves so important? Simply put, because these waves affect the global climate. They transfer huge amounts of energy from the lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere, where they decay. Moreover, they propagate over long distances, like ocean waves, but on a larger scale. Data about these processes and a better understanding of them can bring major advances in many scientific fields.
For example, Tiger Yann-Yenq Liu, director of the Center for Astronautical Physics and Engineering at National Central University in Taiwan, says: "I consider global measurements of gravity waves over a wide height range, including both the mesosphere and the thermosphere or ionosphere, to be very important. Measurements in the mesosphere can improve our understanding of the global circulation, which in turn could improve long-term weather forecasts and climate models."
The Scientific Computing, Telecommunications and Special Development Laboratories of the Faculty of Exact Sciences and Technology of the National University of Tucumán, Argentina, also join in supporting the SOVA mission: 'The SOVA mission will be a great opportunity to expand scientific collaboration in other areas of interest such as radar systems, space weather, data science applied to geosciences and other related fields. Tucumán is located at low latitudes, where the upper atmosphere and ionosphere are affected by very complex electrodynamics, and therefore the SOVA mission will be of particular interest to the international scientific community."
The data on atmospheric waves in the middle and upper atmosphere would be beneficial to many other scientists and research teams around the world. Other supporters of the SOVA mission include the Ionosphere and Space Weather Group of the Centre for Geophysics at the Royal Meteorological Institute in Belgium, scientists at the Andalusian Institute of Astrophysics and scientists at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, Japan.
At the end of September, an evaluation of the SOVA mission and other projects under the Czech Republic's Ambitious Projects Programme will take place. The programme was set up by the Czech Ministry of Transport together with ESA and aims to build the Czech Republic's capacity to develop and produce its own space missions. Currently, several ambitious projects are being prepared under the programme, which will be evaluated by the committee in the autumn and a few of them will be selected for implementation.
You can read more information about SOVA here.