SPACE DOMAINS //  Earth observation

Blue Worlds the atlantic and more

Water is one of our most precious resources, a gift of the universe, whose origin we have not yet discovered.

© Thomas Pesquet

Our latest effort through the Rosetta mission has taught us that the water on Earth is not from this one specific type of comet. The search continues, and Space could be a part of the answer. Water and its peculiar properties have various functions ranging from nutrition for life to transportation.

To preserve, manage and optimise the use of all bodies of water should be one of the highest priorities of our time. The economy of these bodies remains much unexplored, and our scientific knowledge about them and the ecosystems they host is still far from being exhaustive.

The vision is that before the end of 2025 ESA provides an open observation system making use of dedicated low-orbit satellite constellation(s) with different types of sensors and functions to evaluate the overall situation, to deliver capabilities like telecommunication and navigation and in combination to already existing Space and in-situ data sources, stimulating scientific research and business.

Knowledge of seas and oceans is proving increasingly important in solving the keys of climate modelling and future climate predictions. Environmental protection and climate adaptation and resilience are already strategic topics for the Atlantic and Maritime regions. The use of Space technology, in particular all types of Earth Observation data and applications, is an essential element for the development of activities and research in this area.

Enviroment

From an environmental perspective, oceans and seas are critical for monitoring and understanding climate change, and their balance is under significant threat from pollution.

Economic

From an economic point of view, “blue worlds” are essential in that their conditions impact the transportation sector, energy sector, and the food sector. As a source of limited (and often threatened) resources subject to exploration interests from many parties, fair allocation and oversight can be achieved with proper monitoring and inspection mechanisms in place. Tourism-related to maritime activities is also expected to grow with a challenge to keep it eco-friendly.

Safety and security

From a safety and security perspective autonomous shipping, piracy and smuggling are all elements of importance, as well as system alerts for threats such as tsunamis and other extreme weather conditions that can pose a danger to coastlines and recreational navigation. For the latter, services associated with search and rescue are expected to have a higher demand and include more sophistication and inter-operability between Space and terrestrial/maritime means.

The total value of the services produced by marine and coastal ecosystems is valued at USD$ 29.5 trillion per year. But the ocean and sea health are more than wealth.

It is for this reason that, in a joint effort, ESA member States seek to push forward Blue Worlds strategy in blue worlds/geographical areas and respective chapters.

Blue Worlds: Areas and Themes of Action

In a joint effort, ESA Member States seek to push forward in the following strategic blue world/geographical areas:

  • Atlantic (including High North, e.g. Greenland)
  • Baltic
  • Black Sea
  • Mediterranean
  • North Sea

 

The Arctic Ocean (Antarctic area potentially) can be tackled of course in the frame of the Blue World Task Force knowing however that the ESA Arctic Task Force does still formally exist.

This strategy will include the following main dimensions of action:

  • Lead and support scientific diplomacy initiatives with projects for monitoring of UN Sustainable Development goals, creating user communities by regions/themes;
  • Pioneer development of disruptive technologies and business   innovations and identify and push lead users;
  • Lead efforts in advancing multi-disciplinary scientific research;
  • Lead efforts to coordinate and set up a collaborative satellite constellation(s) based on small/microsatellites (low cost, power and size) complementing and maximizing synergies with existing and evolving space infrastructure, including Copernicus, Galileo, Earth Explorers and satcom.

© ESA

that will be taking around six main themes

Data Processing Power and Artificial Intelligence

Infrastructure, processing power and algorithm development to process the large datasets that will be coming in the future. This would aid in the possibility of development real-time/near real-time data products for monitoring. Advanced cloud processing and AI possibilities to maximise the use of existing and new satellite missions. Big data management should be a major focus in the report, alongside regional needs.

Coastal Impact

(i.e. Natural Processes and climate change) For instance, coastal flood hazards and risks. This may also include morphological (physical) change as well as ecological (biological) change and their interactions (bio-physical);

 

Maritime Infrastructure and Navigation

 to promote the evolution of maritime infrastructure including ports, harbours, ships, etc. towards more autonomous and resilient systems;

 

Bay and Estuarine Areas

(incl. Coastal Ecosystems, Processes and Sustainable Food Production): to promote the sustainable development of major urban and coastal ecosystems in bay and estuarine areas and mangroves; to improve land management systems and land productivity and promote new food value chains with sustainable off-shore aquaculture; to improve water management together with sustainable energy usage in coastal regions; and to reduce the impact of floods and sea level rise in major coastal areas;

Safety and Security

to develop, test and implement systems and services to provide safety, integrity and security to infrastructure and end-users, from maritime, communication, fishing, etc. (also through satellites placed in specific orbits such as HEO);

Low Cost Sensors and Information Systems

to develop, test and implement/roll our user-friendly, low-cost sensors and integrated information systems, making use of mini- and micro-satellite data, together with Earth Observation systems integrated with artificial intelligence and other related data processing systems. 

The sectors and users targeted include, and are not limited to: shipping, fishing, port authorities, logistics brokers, environmental and infrastructure public authorities, energy, food, rescue, regulatory bodies