[permaculture] BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Contract signed on Earth observer

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Mon Jun 18 21:38:36 EDT 2007


Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Contract signed on Earth observer
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News, Paris Air Show

Artist's concept of Sentinel 1 (ESA - P. Carril)
Sentinel 1 is the first of five spacecraft for GMES
The European Space Agency (Esa) has ordered up the first bespoke spacecraft in its new global monitoring programme.

Sentinel 1 is the first Earth observation satellite to be built for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security 
(GMES) project.

Esa plans to launch five Sentinel spacecraft to track changes in the land, oceans, weather and climate.

A 229m euro (£155m) contract for the design and development of the satellite was signed at the Paris Air Show.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, Esa director-general, and Pascale Sourisse, chief executive of industrial partner Thales Alenia 
Space, were on hand to do the honours.

"This is the first concrete step in creating the space infrastructure for GMES," said Volker Liebig, Esa's director of 
earth observation programmes.

Political imperative

GMES is designed to provide Europe's politicians with independent environmental data to support policy decisions.

The programme will have a particular emphasis on climate change.

"The last G8 summit showed that Europe has really taken a lead in the political discussions about global change," Mr 
Liebig told journalists in Paris.

"GMES will deliver the necessary instruments and information so that our politicians can make the right decisions on how 
we adapt and tackle this complex issue."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report predicts a temperature rise by the end of 
the century of between 1.8C and 4C (3.2-7.2F).

The report, published earlier this year, also says sea levels are likely to rise by 28-43cm and Arctic summer sea ice is 
likely to disappear in second half of the century.

These climatic changes are likely to lead to a rise in the frequency of heatwaves and an increase in the intensity of 
tropical storms.

"Global climate change is not something for our grandchildren to deal with any more. It is taking place," said Mr Liebig.

Pascale Sourisse added: "GMES is essential for European citizens and the industrial community. It will help prediction 
in the short, medium and long-term."

Multitasked platform

Sentinel 1 is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system, used to generate detailed radar images. By using 
radar, the satellite can make images at any time of the day or night, regardless of the Sun's illumination.

Etna erupts viewed from Envisat (Esa)
A joint initiative of the European Union and Esa
Pulls together all Earth-monitoring data whether collected in space or not
Will use existing and newly commissioned spacecraft
Crucial to the understanding of how our climate is changing
Important for disaster monitoring - earthquakes, floods, eruptions, etc
An enforcement tool for EU policies: fishing quotas, etc
The European component of a global project known as Geoss
Radar wavelengths are longer than those of visible or infrared light. So SAR can "see" through cloudy and dusty 
conditions that visible and infrared instruments cannot.

Sentinel 1 will image the Earth in swathes 250km in diameter and with a ground resolution of five metres.

It will be able to monitor environmental conditions on land and at sea. It will be able to provide detailed data on land 
surface motions when, for example, landslides occur.

The satellite's capability for rapid mapping will be vital after natural disasters, when emergency services need to 
quickly identify whether roads still exist and villages are still intact.

It will also watch over the marine environment, mapping oil spills and changes in sea ice.

Sentinel 1, said Mr Liebig, "gives us the only means to observe what is happening at the poles, which have a very 
important impact on sea levels and climate".

Big wave

Another area where Sentinel 1's capabilities may be vital is illustrated by the 11m waves which hit the Indian Ocean 
island of Reunion on 14 May this year and by the 2004 tsunami disaster.

"Now it is possible to see big waves travelling over the oceans. The waves which hit Reunion were caused by a storm off 
South Africa and were travelling for 11,000km across the ocean before they hit," said Volker Liebig.

The satellite is expected to be launched in 2011.

GMES is a joint initiative of the European Commission and Esa and is one part of an international co-operative effort 
known as Global Earth Observation System of Systems (Geoss).

This is designed to bring together existing and new hardware and software, making it compatible to supply Earth 
observation data to countries around the world.

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Thales Alenia Space
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