AMPERE measures electric currents during a small magnetic storm, intensifying as they move from the pole toward North America and Asia.

Awhile back, we posted a story about solar storms in space and the potential problems these weather systems could cause. When a solar storm reaches Earth, it creates a surge of ions in the Earth’s atmosphere, which can disrupt communications, satellites, navigation systems and utility grids.

To better forecast the occurrence of solar storms, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), with help from The Boeing Company and Iridium, has been successfully using a space-based system to forecast weather in space. The Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment, also known as AMPERE, provides real-time magnetic field measurements using Iridium satellites as part of a new observation network to monitor Earth’s space environment.

AMPERE provides data in real-time every two to 20 seconds from each of Iridium’s low-Earth orbit satellites and the data are available within minutes for analysis. Through AMPERE, the space data is collected up to 100 times more frequently than it had been prior to using the Iridium satellites. These forecast capabilities allow scientists to locate where communications disruptions caused by solar storms are likely to occur.

Recently, Brian J. Anderson, Johns Hopkins University APL Staff Physicist and AMPERE principal investigator, gave an interview to detailing the development of AMPERE and Iridium’s role in how the system works.

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Johns Hopkins APL, AMPERE is an excellent example of combining scientific expertise with a commercial space provider to do basic science paid for by federal sponsors.