The Earth observation programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA): overview of current and future concepts
On demand | Presented Live 13 September 2021
In recent years the Earth observation (EO) programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA) have been dramatically extended. They now include activities that cover the entire spectrum of the wide EO domain, encompassing both upstream and downstream developments, i.e. related to flight elements (e.g. sensors, satellites, supporting technologies) and to ground elements (e.g. operations, data exploitation, scientific applications and services for institutions, businesses and citizens). In the field of EO research missions, ESA continues the successful series of Earth Explorer (EE) missions. The last additions to this series include missions under definition, namely Harmony (the tenth EE) and four candidates for the 11th EE: CAIRT (Changing Atmosphere InfraRed Tomography Explorer), Nitrosat (reactive nitrogen at the landscape scale), SEASTAR (ocean submesoscale dynamics and atmosphere-ocean processes), WIVERN (Wind Velocity Radar Nephoscope). On the smaller programmatic scale of the Scout missions, ESA is also developing two new missions: ESP-MACCS (Earth System Processes Monitored in the Atmosphere by a Constellation of CubeSats) and HydroGNSS (hydrological climate variables from GNSS reflectometry). Another cubesat-scale mission of technological flavor is also being developed, Φ-sat-2. Furthermore, in collaboration with NASA, ESA is defining a Mass change and Geosciences International Constellation (MAGIC) for monitoring gravity variations on a spatio-temporal scale that enables applications at regional level, continuing - with vast enhancements - the successful series of gravity mapping missions flown in the last two decades. The key features of all these missions will be outlined, with emphasis on those relying on optical payloads. ESA is also developing a panoply of new missions for other European institutions, namely Eumetsat and the European Union, which will be briefly reviewed too. These operational-type missions rely on established EO techniques. Nonetheless some new technologies are applied to expand functional and performance envelopes. A brief resume’ of their main features will be provided, with emphasis on the new Sentinel missions for the EU Copernicus programme.
European Space Research and Technology Ctr. (Netherlands)
Pierluigi Silvestrin is the Head of the Future Systems Department in the Earth Observation (EO) Programmes Directorate of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2017. The Department includes approx. 75 people among staff, research fellows and on-site contractors. Previously, he led the Future Missions Division (from 2006) and the Mission and System Studies Section (from 2000), which are part of the Department together with the Φ-lab Division and the Copernicus Space Office at the ESA’s centre in Frascati (Italy). He has been involved with the definition of EO missions and architectures for 32 years, including nearly all Earth Explorers and Copernicus Sentinels, as well as meteo missions for Eumetsat, with original contributions successfully deployed in orbit.