The European Space Agency (ESA) is taking an active role in stimulating the
wider use of Earth observation data by the public and private sector, and
in creating more business opportunities for industry.

Enterprises in Europe and Canada have established a lead in the use of Earth
observation data for research and technology. Now the objective is to take
the next step and encourage the commercial and operational use of Earth
observation data. ESA will open up new opportunities for industry by issuing
a series of Invitations to Tender in three distinct areas:

* the development of software tools for ENVISAT, ESA’s new Earth observation

* the development of new Earth observation-based information services mainly
targeted at institutional users

* the provision of long-term information services for Earth observation

The objective is to strengthen the commercial position of European industry
in the fast-growing worldwide market for Earth-observation data.

ERS-1 and ERS-2: ten years of success

During the last 10 years scientists working in Earth observation have
obtained impressive results in developing the use of Earth-observation
data from ESA’s ERS satellites, both for public and commercial use. New
processing methodologies and applications have been developed such as SAR
Interferometry which has produced spectacular results in various fields
including monitoring earthquakes, volcanoes and land subsidence; studying
the dynamics of glaciers; constructing Digital Elevation Models of the
Earth’s surface; and classifying different land types.

Today, Earth observation data is being used by more than 300 research
teams. Small high-tech firms, large companies and public services such as
meteorological offices, use Earth-observation data for operational and
commercial purpose. ESA’s data-handling centre at ESRIN deals with requests
for Earth-observation data from all the corners of the Earth. The large
number of users in North America and the Asia-Pacific Basin is particularly

It is a widely recognised that the success of the two ERS satellites has
led to the development of new applications of Earth-observation data.
Expectations are now high for the innovative new Earth observation satellite,
ENVISAT, due to be launched in October.


This will be the biggest and most sophisticated Earth-observation satellite
ever built. With ten highly advanced instruments on board, it will be able
to collect continuous data and images of the planet’s vital elements,
including sea and landscapes, weather patterns and atmospheric changes.
ENVISAT, together with its advanced ground-support system, is designed for
the development of operational and commercial applications.

ESA has launched a new data policy to stimulate the use of Earth observation
data provided by Envisat for both public and commercial use, and for
research and development in new Earth-observation fields.

Business opportunities

ESA is now opening up new opportunities for European and Canadian industry
in a series of open Invitation to Tenders. A total budget of more than seven
million Euro will finance 37 new contracts to be initiated within the coming

Further details on the near-term planned Invitation to Tenders are presented
in “New Earth observation business opportunities open to Industry”.

Related News

* New Earth observation business opportunities – details

* Contracts signed for the distribution of Earth observation data

* About Earth Observation

* ERS 1 and 2

* Envisat

Related Links

* Earth Observation Homepage

* Envisat Homepage

* ERS homepage

* EO Exploitation Projects

* Data User Programme

* ESA Earth Observation Envelope Programme – Market Development

* General Studies Programme

* ESA Industry Portal

* Electronic Mail Invitation to Tender System (EMITS)


[Image 1:]
European research has obtained outstanding results in Earth Observation
with ERS. This image shows a plot of the total column amount of ozone
measured during one day (6 July 96) on the world map, measured by the
world sensor GOME, ERS-2 data.

[Image 2:]
ESA defined a new Data Policy to maximise the beneficial use of the Earth
observation data for the ENVISAT satellite and to stimulate a balanced
development of scientific and public and private sector applications,
consistent with the mission objectives. The image shows a sample SAR
Interferometry from the ERS-2 mission.

The Interferometric “Browse” Product (IBP), the left image, shows the
interferometric phase projected on a colour wheel (in those regions where
the coherence is higher than 0.2) and the average intensity image on a
grey-scale elsewhere. This image is useful to quickly assess the quality
of the interferometric fringes, which might, for example, be used to make
digital elevation models (DEM). Each cycle of the colours (for example,
going from yellow to purple to turquoise and back to yellow again)
represents a change in the ground height.

The Interferometric Land-Use Image (ILU) on the right is a RGB image where
the separate channels have been coded: red is the interferometric coherence,
green is the average intensity of the two acquisitions and blue is the
intensity change between the two acquisitions.

This image is useful to quickly assess the suitability of the
interferometric pair for discrimination between different land-use types.
In addition, the land-use types can be coloured in a manner similar to a
photographic image and in this way be thought of as a form of “colour SAR
image”. A simplified understanding of the relation between the ILU image
colours and the land surface type in the above image is: GREEN areas
correspond to heavily vegetated (forests) areas, BLUE areas correspond to
water surfaces (sea and inland water), RED areas correspond to bare rock
and stable agricultural fields, and YELLOW areas correspond to urban centres.