Collaborative Earth Observation

This image combines two Sentinel-1A radar scans from 3 and 15 January 2015 to show ice velocities on outlet glaciers of Greenland’s west coast. Courtesy of Copernicus data (2015)/ESA/Enveo

This image combines two Sentinel-1A radar scans from 3 and 15 January 2015 to show ice velocities on outlet glaciers of Greenland’s west coast. Courtesy of Copernicus data (2015)/ESA/Enveo

Establishing Earth observation systems are large and expensive projects with the combination of satellite development and launch alongside the ground based infrastructure, but the direct Earth observation community itself is fairly small. Working collaboratively and in partnerships can therefore help leverage initiatives, funding, research and publicity to demonstrate the value, and benefits, of our industry to the wider world.

Last week saw the announcement of three international collaborations for the UK, two at a national level and one at a local Pixalytics level! Firstly, the UK Space Agency announced 7 new collaborative projects between UK companies and international partners, funded through the International Partnerships Space Programme to develop satellite technology and applications in emerging economies.

The projects included e-learning solutions for schools in Tanzania, developing satellite air navigation, low cost telecommunications CubeSats, enhancing digital connectivity in Kenya and developing instruments for the next generation of meteorological and disaster management satellites. They were also two Earth Observation specific projects:

  • Enabling Kazakhstan’s Earth observation capability by developing and testing ground receiving stations ahead of the planned 2016 launch of the KazSTSAT small satellite mission, which will produce over 70 gigabytes of data daily.
  • Oceania Pacific Recovery and Protection in Disaster (RAPID) system which will aim to improve the use of satellite data in the aftermath of natural disasters, by getting critical decision influencing information to people in the field as quickly as possible.

The second collaboration was the UK signing the Ground Segment Cooperation agreement with ESA for the EU’s Copernicus programme. This sees the establishment of a data hub in Harwell to provide UK users with easier access to the free and publicly available data from the Copernicus Sentinel missions, and a wide range of complementary missions. The Sentinel missions will form the backbone of this data, with 14 planned satellite launches by 2025; eventually providing around 8 terabytes of data daily. Launched in 2014, Sentinel-1A is the first mission and carries a C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument providing all-weather, day-and-night imagery of the Earth’s surface; it is producing some stunning images including the one at the top of this blog. Next up will be Sentinel-2A this summer which will offer optical data across 13 spectral bands, with 4 bands at 10 m spatial resolution, 6 bands at 20 m and 3 bands at 60 m.

The final collaborative partnership is closer to home; as Pixalytics is delighted to announce that we have an international PhD student, through the European Union’s Erasmus Programme, coming to work with us over the summer.

Remote sensing and Earth observation are becoming increasingly collaborative, and is only likely to continue in the future. Everyone should encourage and support these developments, as working together will achieve much more than working alone.

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