6 planets, 2 moons & 1 comet - not often in space science does a single project offer new insights in such numbers of objects in our solar system. The Europe-wide consortium IMPEx does exactly that and now reports significant progress.
For the first time in space science a newly developed data model will directly connect simulation results with observational data from space missions. This long awaited progress will enable joint operations of computational models with spacecraft measurements.
This will allow scientists to better understand complex observational data, to fill numerical gaps in observations and to verify both, observations and simulations. The main application of the data model will thus be research into plasma and magnetic environments of various planetary objects.
Currently there are numerous space missions in operation at the same time. Despite their billions of dollar costs they all are hampered by one decisive disadvantage: they are left to their own devices. Literally.
Due to the complexity of space exploration, instruments and devices are purpose made and data acquisition as well as number crunching follows individual protocols. This in turn makes the exchange and sharing of observational data between missions and sophisticated computational models developed by third parties a "Mission Impossible". A fact that makes the assessment of their reliability challenging. A consortium of scientists from Austria, Finland, France and Russia has now changed all that.
IMPACT WITH IMPEx
As part of the EU-funded project IMPEx, the scientists succeeded in establishing a data model that for the first time bridges the gap between spacecraft measurements and modern computational models.
Focussing initially on plasma and magnetic environments of numerous planets, moons and comets, the team managed to have an operating data model (including adapted software tools and simulation databases) up and running in less than three years after the project start in 2011. Commenting on this success, Dr. Maxim Khodachenko, project coordinator and senior scientist at the Space Research Institute (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, says: "Our data model, which was developed by our French partners from LATMOS and CDPP in cooperation with Finnish and Russian project partners, will greatly aid the simulation of planetary phenomena and the interpretation of space missions measurements. Furthermore it will allow testing models versus experimental data, as well as to fill gaps in the measurements with data from appropriate modelling runs. All these are important advances that will help to perform preparation of mission operations and solve technological tasks."
One specific focus of the project is the visualisation of observational data in conjunction with computational model results. Therefore the newly developed data model is already supported by tools like e.g. 3DView that allows the visualisation of planetary orbits, the trajectories of space crafts, and model simulated data in great detail and in 3D. Even models of so called bow shocks (the area between a magnetosphere and interplanetary space) and magnetopauses can be visualised and analysed.
For an impression of the visualisation power of IMPEx look this video.
MANY MISSIONS - ONE MODEL
In fact numerous space missions will directly benefit from the research of IMPEx in general and from the finalised and further elaborated data model in specific. These missions include BepiColombo for Mercury, Venus Express for Venus, Cluster and Themis for Earth, Mars Express for Mars, Galileo, Juno and Juice for Jupiter and its moon Ganymede as well as Cassini for Saturn and its moon Titan.
But also the Rosetta mission which reaches its target Comet 67P in November 2014 will take advantage of the data model. One of the biggest challenges the IMPEx team was facing has been the diversity of software systems in all these missions. "There are numerous different systems operating", explains Dr. Esa Kallio from the Finnish partner institute FMI. "Combining all these under a common communication protocol was a real challenge.
We had to define a set of methods of which several are shared between all data bases." Furthermore Vincent Génot, the Project Scientist of IMPEx, adds: "Indeed these methods constitute the core part of the IMPEx protocol that now offers several web-based tools for combining, analysing and visualising both simulation and observational data."
The IMPEx Data Model was recently successfully implemented for the complex magnetohydrodynamics models of space phenomena developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), showing its great advances and efficiency in space science applications.
The FP7-Project IMPEx (Integrated Medium for Planetary Exploration) is supported by the European Union Grant agreement number 262863
IMPEx core team from Austria: Maxim Khodachenko (Coordinator) • Tarek Al-Ubaidi (Project manager and IT expert) • Florian Topf (IT expert) • Manuel Scherf (Scientific user support and validation)
International Consortium: Esa Kallio (Deputy Coordinator), FMI, Finland • Vincent Génot (Project Scientist), CNRS/IRAP, France • Michel Gangloff (Work Package Leader), CNRS/IRAP, France • Walter Schmidt (Work Package Leader), FMI, Finland • Igor Alexeev (Work Package Leader), SINP-MSU, Russia • Ronan Modolo (Task Leader), CNRS/LATMOS, France
Brnik - It is 50 years, to the day, since the first plane touched down at Ljubljana airport. The airport has served more than 935,000 planes carrying over 35.3 million passengers since. Passenger numbers have been increasing steadily throughout this time, while the airport has seen both ups and downs.
Heralded as Slovenia's new window to the world, the new airport at Brnik welcomed the first aircraft on the Christmas Eve of 1963 as the DC-6B of Adria Aviopromet, the precursor of the Slovenian flag carrier, touched down in the morning.
Scheduled flights were launched on 9 January the next year. Flights to Belgrade, Dubrovnik and London were operated by the Yugoslav air carrier JAT, while Adria flew to Belgrade and the Algerian capital of Algiers.
The airport welcomed more than 78,000 passengers in its first year, and turnout has been on the increase since except for brief negative spells. "Drawing a line since the foundation, the airport's traffic has been increasing at an average six percent a year," Zmago Skobir, CEO of operator Aerodrom Ljubljana, says.
The airport, called the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport today, has also seen some difficult times. It has been impacted by the Gulf War, the oil crisis, the SARS scare in 2003 and the 9/11 2001 terrorist attack on the US. But the airport was hit hardest as Slovenia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.
While passenger traffic neared 900,000 in 1987, it collapsed to less than 350,000 after Slovenia declared independence. It took 13 years for the passenger numbers to come close to 900,000 again in 1999. The one million mark was surpassed in 2004 and the figure peaked at almost 1.7m in 2008 when Slovenia held the rotating presidency of the EU.
Since the crisis kicked in in 2009, traffic slowed down again to below 1.2m passengers in 2012. However, the airport saw a new turnaround this year as intensive efforts in the past two years to attract new carriers bore fruit and owing to a recovery at flag carrier Adria Airways.
"Ever since its beginnings, the airport has been healthy and has not witnessed financial difficulties since 1997. It has been developing moderately to enable traffic to grow," Skobir has told the STA, confident that the airport would continue to grow.
Ljubljana airport awaits a new milestone as it has been slated for privatisation and expects to get a new owner next year. "Our wish is for the owner to be a strong company that has the skills and leverage to expand and develop the airport," Skobir says. • Source: STA (12/13)
Railway interoperability • Europe
The European railway will soon be improved with better interoperability, enhanced safety, more transparent information for users and clearer labour rights for workers following the vote today on the fourth railway package by the European Parliament.
Socialists and Democrats welcome the new legislation as a good balance for a highly needed updating of EU-wide rules and technical standards.
S&D spokesperson on transport, MEP Saïd El Khadraoui, said:
"Interoperability will create a true European railway network. By December 2019 interoperable ticketing and information systems have to be set up, which shall give passengers access to all data needed to plan a journey, reserve and buy their tickets, regardless the operator or combination of operators they use.
"Our main priorities have been achieved. We Socialists and Democrats wanted to make sure that market opening will not undermine the protection of public service obligations (PSO).
"Another important goal we achieved is to protect workers' rights. Railway companies will have to respect collective agreements in force in the member states they wish to operate in as a condition to obtain and keep their operating licence.
MEP Inés Ayala, S&D shadow rapporteur for the technical reports of the legislation, said:
"The new interoperability directive will reduce the production costs for rail rolling stock and establish a one-stop shop for market authorisations with the aim of reducing the existing 26 national procedures to one single passport.
"We need to maintain the good safety record of railways in the EU, while at the same time reducing the 11,000 existing national rules that block the growth of a true single railway area. In fact we have guaranteed even higher safety standards.
"Also, following the example of the aviation sector, national agencies will have to present emergency and rescue plans as well as a system for providing care for victims following an accident." • 2/14
A memorandum of cooperation is to be signed on Wednesday between the Slovenian Economic Development and Technology Ministry and Russia's Vladimir region as part of a visit by a business and political delegation from the region headed by Governor Svetlana Orlova.
The memorandum will be penned by head of the ministry's tourism and internationalisation directorate Marjan Hribar and the governor of the Vladimir region at a Slovenian-Russian business conference that will take place in the afternoon at the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS).
The two sides wish to boost cooperation among businesses from both sides and will organise several conferences in different areas of cooperation, from tourism to small and medium-sized businesses, according to a press release from the Economy Ministry.
Two Slovenian companies - floorings maker Juteks and prefabricated construction elements maker Trimo - are already present in the Vladimir region, which borders the Moscow region.
The business conference in the afternoon will be attended by representatives of around 20 Russian companies and will be addressed by GZS president Samo Hribar Milič and head of the Slovenian-Russian business council Janez Škrabec.
The conference is to focus on opportunities for boosting bilateral cooperation in tourism, small businesses, the agriculture and food sector and innovative industries.
Orlova is also scheduled to be received by Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek later today.
Russia is Slovenia's seventh biggest trade partner. It ranks fifth in the value of Slovenian direct investments abroad and fourth in the number of tourist stays in Slovenia.
Slovenia already has similar memorandums with the Moscow region, Leningrad region, Samara, Ulyanovsk, Altai and Moscow city, while several others are also in the pipeline. • Source: STA (12/13)