Photograph of a hurricane taken from space
Monitoring the Earth and its ecosystems from outer space is easily the most important task of the space sector. It is through Earth observation that we can detect any changes in the land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere, and develop measures to protect our environment and the Earth’s climate.
In the event of disasters such as earthquakes, floods or oil spills, Earth observation satellites can deliver an instant overview. Satellite images provide information on the extent of a disaster, indicate where relief action is most urgently needed, as well as supporting response teams on the ground. Satellite-based remote sensing is used to generate digital maps of the Earth’s surface as well as assisting with daily weather forecasting, thus, for instance, securing air and shipping traffic.
Earth observation satellites also provide decision support information for international agreements such as that on protecting the ozone layer or controlling global warming. They also help monitor the degree to which countries comply with their commitments. By providing intelligence to authorities, they assist in mapping biotopes, targeting agricultural subsidies and setting up mobile telephone systems. And these are but a few of a wide range of applications.
Priorities within the German Earth observation programme
By international standards, the vast body of expertise gathered and systems deployed in Europe are outstanding, both from a scientific and technical point of view. Germany has been contributing to this by investing in applications and technology development as well as by operating its own Earth observation satellites. Our aims are to:
- continuously extend existing Earth observation systems, thereby developing further expertise
- involve business enterprises in Earth observation missions and services, thus encouraging the creation of modern workplaces
- develop satellites and technologies to help the German government fulfil its tasks in the fields of meteorology, oceanography and environmental monitoring
- improve scientific methods to process and evaluate Earth observation data and disseminate the results
- help build a permanent European Earth observation programme to get the best value out of Germany’s assets in satellite-based Earth observation.