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Railways could be affected due to direct impact on track circuits or electronics, or indirectly as they depend on power, communications, and progressively on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) for timing and positioning. Credit: © Fotolia, Oleksiy Mark The JRC has been looking into the risks of space weather impact on critical infrastructures. A new report explores the rail sector's vulnerability and the potential impacts, in particular through interdependencies with other infrastructures. Awareness among operators and regulators worldwide is currently limited and vulnerabilities across the rail sector need to be identified, authors say. Solar activity affects the space environment surrounding the Earth. This so-called space weather can disrupt and damage critical infrastructure in space and on the ground, including satellites, aviation, road and marine transport, banking and power grids. Society relies on these infrastructures and services, which have become inter- dependent and are therefore more vulnerable to space weather. Railway networks could be affected in case of an extreme space weather event due to direct impact on system components, such as track circuits or electronics, or indirectly via dependencies on power, communications, and progressively on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) for timing and positioning. While most space weather-related studies focus on the impact on power grids, GNSS and aviation, little attention has been paid to the possibility of rail sector disruption. However, anomalies in signaling and train control systems linked to this phenomenon have already been documented, and rail operations are dependent on other potentially space-weather prone technologies, such as power, communications, and systems for timing and positioning. The report co-authored by the JRC summarises the results of a workshop organised in partnership with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the UK Department for Transport and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in September 2015. Representatives from the rail sector, insurance, academia and European and North American government agencies attended. The participating experts concluded that the vulnerability of the railway sector to space weather varies from country to country due to different system architectures and operational approaches. They recognised that during extreme space-weather situations, multiple infrastructures could be affected at the same time, with potential consequences on rail operations. The experts also concluded that the move towards more automation in future rail traffic management will likely add vulnerabilities to space weather to the rail network due to the increasing use of GNSS. Backup systems to mitigate the risks of GNSS loss are therefore required. Building resilience to space weather across the rail sector requires the identification of its vulnerabilities and options for mitigating this risk, including the possibility to use 24/7 early warning capacities that are available in Europe and the US, and which are already being used by power grid operators and aviation. To cope with the risks of extreme space weather, the experts recommended multilateral and international collaboration for preparedness. Explore further: UK needs defending against space weather 'superstorm'

However the rollout of ETCS, which is divided into four distinct levels (ETCS 1-4), has been a major concern for train manufacturers and railway infrastructure managers. This has been due to a variety of reasons, including various interpretations in the specification of the system's behaviour, available laboratory certification procedures not being able to fully address all of the system's needs, long and expensive field-testing, and other technical difficulties. The EATS project aimed to develop new on-board location systems by combining Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R) technologies, as well as including multi-antenna configurations on the train. This would allow for the migration from ETCS level 2 to level 3 which would improve the overall efficiency of European railways. To design, implement and evaluate the new location systems, EATS has utilised the innovative ATLAS (Advanced Train LocAtion Simulator), which is modular, extensible and highly configurable. It allows for the configuration of the train to be analysed together with the on-board location systems and even for the train's route to be studied. Moreover, it provides a powerful performance evaluation tool that allows visualising the results of hundreds of simulations at a glance. ATLAS comprises of four key modules: the ATLAS Route Simulator that calculates the global positioning and/or velocity of each receiver and sensor contained in the train, using a specific train model and track layout; the ATLAS Input Generator, which uses the data from the Route Simulator and generates the input sources with configured errors for the algorithms to be tested in the Position Estimator; the ATLAS Position Estimator, the module responsible for testing different location algorithms; and finally the ATLAS Performance Analyser that allows the user to compare and contrast the behaviour of each positioning configuration carried out, and thus to select the most favourable or convenient. EATS used ATLAS and its four specific modules to automate the testing of different antenna distributions applied to a train model under several performance zones. In addition to this, positioning algorithms and different technologies used for positioning have been tested to allow the comparison of their performance and suitability for the railway sector. By developing innovative on-board positioning systems, the project will contribute to improving both the safety and the efficiency of the European railway network by facilitating a quicker rollout of the ETCS at a time when passenger and freight numbers are rapidly increasing across Europe. Explore further: Rail researchers work on UK's first Tram-Train scheme More information: For more information please see the project website: www.eats-eu.org/index.html

Becedas J.,Satellite Systems | Perez R.,Satellite Systems | Gonzalez G.,Satellite Systems
International Journal of Remote Sensing

Earth observation (EO) with satellites has been applied in different fields such as environment monitoring, natural disasters response, emergencies management, civil security, intelligence, maritime surveillance, and many others. Some of the application fields are very demanding in terms of system revisit time and product delivery time. This is the case of responses to natural disasters. However EO still presents critical challenges to overcome in order to cover the actual demand of services: (i) high revisit time, (ii) high response time, and (iii) easy and instant access to EO products. To increase the revisit time and broaden the applications of the remote sensing, new space concepts such as constellations and formations of satellites have been developed. However, the traditional ground infrastructures, which are required to process and store data, are expensive. Moreover, their limited scalability as well as their limited flexibility to manage large and variable amounts of imagery data shall also be considered. Along this work, we propose a cloud infrastructure for data management to be validated with a constellation of 17 satellites acquiring the Earth’s surface on a daily basis in order to offer high added value services for highly demanding applications. The satellites download the raw data images in a network of 12 ground stations distributed around the world to provide global coverage. The cloud system is based on previous works carried out by the research group. Thus the cloud infrastructure is tested and evaluated for its use in the EO sector and applied to different realistic scenarios, including an intensive comparison with a traditional system responding to the Lorca’s earthquake, which occurred in Spain in 2011. © 2015 Taylor & Francis Source

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