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Which space technologies can be exploited to benefit your activity?

 

EARTH OBSERVATION

Copernicus is the worldwide reference system for Earth observation. Being an EU-led programme whose space component is managed by ESA it has grown into a unique success story, marking an epochal transition to operational Earth observation and continuing to meet huge user interest and uptake. At present there are 230.000 registered users on the ESA/EU Copernicus Open Access hub, and more than 141 PB of data have been downloaded. It has to be noted that this is only a fraction of the full user uptake, because in addition many more Sentinel data are downloaded from the Copernicus Services, the collaborative data hubs in ESA Member States and other international cooperative and commercial data hubs.

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Currently seven Sentinels are in orbit and work flawlessly. The remaining missions Setinel-4, -5 and -6 will be launched soon. The re-current satellites of Sentinel-1 to -6 are being prepared, along with the new generations. As part of the extension of Copernicus, six new Sentinel missions, the so-called Extention Sentinels, will address key emerging European policy requirements such as climate change, Arctic situational awareness, ecosystem change and key societal challenges such as food security, migration and access to natural resources.

Meteorological satellites represent the most established application field of Earth observation. This activity line is run in close co-operation with EUMETSAT. Currently 4 MSG satellites and 3 MetOp satellites are in orbit, monitoring large areas of the globe and compensating for gaps in the terrestrial meteorology data-gathering network. The MetOp series accounts for 31% of the error reduction of one day weather forecasts. Operational systems in the field of meteorology require long term continuity, and developments of the new satellite generations are well underway.

 

HUMAN-TENDED AND ROBOTIC PLATFORMS

The commercialisation of human-tended and robotic platforms in space is one of the key elements of the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P).

The development of commercial services provides a unique opportunity for a broad range of industries to commercialize existing space assets, such as the International Space Station (ISS), and to develop commercial services, products and applications that can be offered to a more diverse customer base. It represents a significant growth option not only for established space industry players, but in particular for companies from outside the space industry, which could offer new or improved services and products to their customers on Earth. Reduced lead times of less than one year make space for a broad range of commercial activities spanning from drug research and personalised medicine to in-orbit manufacturing.

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Three commercially-accessible space-based platforms were developed in public-private partnership with ESA Commercial Partners and are now available on the International Space Station (ISS), offering fast-track access to the world’s most unique laboratory and work place: the ICE Cubes and Bioreactor Express Services, the Bartolomeo Platform and, currently in development, the Lunar Pathfinder Mission which aims to provide the first communication service to the Moon.

The recently established European Space Resource Innovation Centre (ESRIC) marks an important first step to prepare for extraction and processing in-situ resources, opening up the possibility to sustainably providing services and products to customers both on Earth or in space.

From 2021, the Business in Space Growth Network (BSGN) will provide a toolbox of complementary support mechanisms in an effort to create an ecosystem in which commercially-motivated products and services can thrive.

 

NAVIGATION

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) have the ability to determine the users’ location and the location of other people or objects at any given moment with high precision. This is possible through the constellation of satellites providing signals from space that transmit positioning and timing data to GNSS receivers.

Galileo is Europe’s own global navigations satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. Due to offering dual frequencies as standard, the system is able to deliver new levels of real-time positioning accuracy and improve availability of the service under most extreme circumstances. The fully deployed system will consist of 24 operational satellites plus six in orbit spares, positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit planes at 23 222 km altitude above the earth. The constellation is supported by ground infrastructure consisting of a range of sensor stations and control centres around the world.

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Galileo offers a range of new services, including search and rescue, encrypted navigation services for governments (e.g. PRS) and more precise positioning for commercial applications. The sectors transportation (e.g. in-vehicle systems, fleet management) and consumer solutions (e.g. location based services for smartphones/tablets) are currently and expected to continue to dominate in terms of cumulative revenue for GNSS enabled services, followed by agriculture and geomatics.

 

TELECOMMUNICATION

Satellite communications play a pivotal role in global telecommunications systems. They provide communication links between various points on earth by relaying analogue and digital signals carrying voice, video and data to and from or many locations worldwide.

Since the first commercial satellite in 1965 (Intelsat’s Early Bird) the industry has kept on evolving. It started from a satellite broadcasting a single video channel to now having High-Throughput Satellites (HTS) and new Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations delivering enhanced capacity and power to enable a new wave of industrial applications (e.g IoT/M2M). These developments have been driven by the increasing demand for capacity and flexibility in connectivity coming from consumers, businesses and governments.

Communication satellites have the ability to connect the unconnected, be resilient in disaster scenarios, provide secure transmission of sensitive information and ensure seamless connectivity for mobile platforms (e.g. Aviation, Maritime and Land).

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Some of these strengths also play an important role in augmenting terrestrial communications by extending coverage (e.g. backhauling) or acting as a back-up. This augmentation could potentially reach new heights as the new generation of mobile wireless communications (5G) is expected to enable more integration between terrestrial and satellite networks.

ESA remains at the forefront of supporting industry and driving innovation in satellite communications and business applications of space systems. ESA activities cover the whole value chain from space down to services and ensures European industry remain competitive in the open commercial market of satellite communications.

SPACE TRANSPORTATION

ESA-developed launch vehicles, Ariane 5 and Vega, operate from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to guarantee continued independent, reliable, versatile and competitive access to space for a wide range of applications.

The upcoming arrival of Ariane 6 and Vega-C and later Space Rider will further extend space transport capabilities while best serving the needs of institutional missions and continuing to position Europe in a very competitive launch services market.

ESA also fosters new space transportation services in the private sector through Boost! – ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme.

ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) oversees future system/services studies and research activities in order to mature new concepts, demonstrators and technologies, capable of delivering performance and reliability coupled with reduced operational service costs.

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These developments continue to advance Europe’s expertise in technologies, create jobs, stimulate the space economy and benefit daily life through applications such as telecommunication, science data, Earth observation and navigation.

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