Space magnetometry from Swarm and beyond

The Swarm satellite mission is ESA's fourth Earth Explorer in space since late 2013. As we prepare to
celebrate 10 years of successful operations (and looking forward to many years more!), the Swarm community met 10-12 October 2023 in sunny Frascati, Italy, for the thirteenth Data Quality Workshop to compare notes and plan for the future of the mission to explore Earth's magnetic field.

With the foremost minds in satellite magnetometry gathered in one room, and expertise ranging from geophysics, space instrumentation and operations to software engineering, this regular meeting is always exciting. Swarm's primary three spacecraft (, as well as other contributing spacecraft, continue to provide invaluable measurements that probe many phenomena, from the flow of material in Earth's core to electric currents above the atmosphere driven by solar activity. We have been able to improve the data quality (i.e. improved calibration and error correction) year-on-year and continue to evolve and grow the large portfolio of data products and services which have enabled scientists to publish over 500 research papers so far, as well as providing critical input to many applications, from navigation and mineral exploration to space weather prediction.

There are two new advances in the data delivery worth mentioning here. Firstly, there is the implementation of a new "FAST" processing chain, which makes data available within a few hours (subject to down-linking constraints imposed by the satellite orbits and ground station locations). This makes it possible to use Swarm for same-day space weather monitoring. The second point is in connection with the VirES data access and exploitation platform which radically increases the accessibility of the data. We are building new capabilities in the on-demand processing of data through the SwarmPAL software, where scientists contribute algorithms and tooling that are made more flexible and coherent through the adoption of a common framework.

The growing opportunities don't stop there though. On 13th October, some of us from the Swarm workshop travelled on to the Royal Astronomical Society, London, for another meeting showing some of the first results from the newly launched Macau Science Satellite (MSS-1). This new mission offers highly complementary data to Swarm and we expect new research analysing the joint dataset over the coming years. With the growing number of operators of high-precision magnetometers in space, the need to collaborate and coordinate is more important than ever.

For more news about Swarm, click here.

Ashley Smith is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh, working as part of the Swarm DISC (Data, Innovation, and Science Cluster). He is passionate about computing technologies and open source software and his research interests include geomagnetic field modelling and space weather. He can be contacted by email at


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