UK Space Agency Earth Observations Strategy – A Quick Overview

Earth Observation (EO)

EO is the collection, analysis and presentation of data in order to better understand the planet Earth. Satellite EO is the use of satellites to collect information about the Earth.

Satellite EO is supported by in situ data collected using a range of instruments on land, in the sea, or in the air. A wide variety of satellite instrument types measure the land, water, air and ice in different ways:

  • Optical instruments obtain data by recording the sun’s reflected energy across various wavelengths, including visible light and invisible infrared bands.
  • Radar instruments shine microwave pulses from space to Earth in order to record how these are reflected back. These instruments measure surface roughness and have the advantage of being able to operate through cloud and darkness.
  • Altimeter instruments very precisely record the time it takes for a microwave or laser pulse to be bounced back to their satellite, measuring both land and sea height to an accuracy of just a few centimetres.
  • Atmospheric instruments work by detecting how the envelope of air surrounding our planet affects light, heat or radio energy passing through it. Certain ‘signature’ spectral wavelengths are either absorbed or emitted by the atmosphere indicating the presence of associated chemicals and gases such as oxygen or carbon dioxide.

The UK Space Agency is the UK policy focal point who develops national and international policy for EO satellites and services. They work with EO community to cover a number of issues. These include:

  • early research and development of technology
  • manufacture and launch
  • building the infrastructure needed to move, validate and share data in a format suitable for widespread application in the development of products and services

Vision for EO and Climate

The overall objective for the future of EO is that, by 2040, the potential it offers for the economy, for science and for society has been maximised. This is achieved through providing the quality-assured data required to underpin mass market and business applications, global cutting-edge science and policy, and operational decision making. This is delivered through five priorities:

  1. Leveraging the financial return from ESA in areas of strategic and long-term importance for the UKs position in future opportunities.
  2. Maximising the opportunities in Copernicus and other EU programmes.
  3. Positioning EO as a fundamental infrastructure and tool underpinning industrial strategy, policy and societal needs.
  4. Investing in global innovation and growth through technology, applications, and bilateral and international partnerships and programmes.
  5. Inspiring the next generation.

These priorities cut across three areas on which the UK Space Agency is focused:

  • opening new markets for satellite enabled services
  • supporting the development and export of new EO technologies
  • developing the UK’s position as a global hub for trusted EO data products

Source: UK government

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