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Earth observation

Satellite Remote Sensing is part of high-tech methods aiming at collecting, assembling and processing information which allow the monitoring of atmospheric, terrestrial and marine phenomena, whether natural or human-induced : weather conditions, vegetation growth, urban development, change in sea water quality, but also seismic and volcanic activities, floods, deforestation, erosion, desertification, pollutions, ozone concentration...

Belgian Earth Observation Research Programme

As early as 1984, Belgium understood the importance of remote sensing applications. Besides its commitment in the French SPOT programme and its participation in the ESA activities (European Space Agency), EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) en ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts), Belgium has launched a national Earth Observation research programme, initially called Telsat. Today, under the name STEREO 2, the programme still fits within the framework of the overall Belgian research strategy for remote sensing which aims at:

  • Generalising the use of satellite data as information source
  • Contributing simultaneously to infrastructure, data support and data use
  • Introducing remote sensing in operational services
  • Consolidating Belgium’s EO expertise and facilitating its insertion into networks of international standing.

Funded projects fit into thematic research priorities inspired by the GMES (Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security) objectives:

  • Global monitoring of vegetation and evolution of terrestrial ecosystems
  • Environmental management (coastal areas, inland water, soil, forests, biodiversity, agriculture, urban and suburban areas)
  • Health and humanitarian aid
  • Security and risk management .

VEGETATION and PROBA-V programmes

The VEGETATION programme is the fruit of a collaboration between various European partners: Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden and the European Commission. In 1998, it was grafted onto the SPOT programme. The VEGETATION system consists of two observation instruments in orbit, as well as ground infrastructures. The two instruments on board of the SPOT 4 and SPOT 5 satellites have been specially designed to study the state of vegetation at a global level and to track its spatial and temporal evolution.

One of the most important contributions of Belgium is the funding and the hosting of the image processing centre (CTIV) at VITO in Mol (Belgium) which processes, distributes and archives the data products since the beginning of the programme. Since 1 January 2007, CTIV has held exclusive rights to the distribution of VEGETATION data among some 10,000 users all around the world.

The continuity of the VEGETATION programme should be guaranteed by a constellation of satellites proposed by ESA as part of the GMES initiative, the 'Sentinels' satellites. One of the objectives of the Sentinel programme is indeed to provide global data thanks to the pair Sentinel-3A and Sentinel-3B. Whereas SPOT 5 should carry out its mission until the end of 2013, the Sentinel-3 satellites will not be operational before 2015.

In order to ensure the continuity of global data delivery and fill the gap between the end of service of Spot 5 and the launch of Sentinel 3, Belgium has decided to build a satellite called PROBA-V ("V" standing for Vegetation). This small satellite could be ready for launch by 2012, with an operational life in orbit of 3 to 5 years. The instrument, also made in Belgium, is an updated and reduced-mass version of the VEGETATION instrument including improved spatial resolution.
Read more on the PROBA-V website...

Belgian Earth Observation Platform
The Belgian Platform on Earth Observation want to provide you the most possible complete and relevant information on remote sensing activities with an emphasis on Belgian research in the domain.
Read more on the BEO-Platform website...

EOEdu - Observing our planet
Educational website on Earth Observation by satellite.
Read more on the EOEdu website...

Database of research projects FEDRA
Read more about Belgian Research Programmes on Earth Observation via FEDRA:
'STEREO II' - 'STEREO I' - Scientific support for the exploitation of the "vegetation" instrument, or Telsat 4.

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