Iceye captured this image of San Diego with one of the three satellites the Finnish company launched in January on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission. Credit: Iceye

SAN FRANCISCO – The European Space Agency plans to offer researchers free access to Iceye’s synthetic aperture radar imagery (SAR) including the ability to task Iceye satellites.

Iceye announced June 10 that it had been approved for inclusion in ESA’s Earthnet Program Third Party Missions (TPM) data portfolio. Once an Earth-observation constellation qualifies for TPM, ESA establishes agreements to acquire, process and distribute the data to complement data drawn from ESA satellites. ESA then shares the data with principal investigators and applies the data to its own projects.

“We are delighted to join the prestigious ESA Earthnet TPM program,” Tero Vauraste, Iceye regional director Europe, said in a statement. “The program is an incredible resource for the global Earth observation community, and especially for research data users.”

Iceye is the first entrepreneurial (SAR) company included in TPM, Vauraste said. Through TPM, Iceye will provide data in all of its imaging modes, including high resolution to wide-area coverage, he added.

“Within the Third Party Mission scheme, ESA approved science and application development users are eligible for accessing the ICEYE archive and new tasking products for scientific and R&D activities,” Iceye said on its website. “To get the data, an individual must submit a proposal to ESA.”

ESA contributes funding to Third Party Missions in three ways. The space agency may provide funding to support mission operations, assume responsibility for distributing data to customers and pay for a license to share the data.

ESA announced plans in 2019 to begin evaluating Iceye data for the TPM portfolio.

“We are very pleased to welcome Iceye as a Third Party Mission partner and to disseminate its SAR satellite images through the ESA Earthnet Program,” Peggy Fischer, ESA Third Party Missions manager, said in a statement. “Iceye’s constantly growing satellite constellation and the high quality of SAR images are an unprecedented data source and an asset for ESA’s Third Party Mission portfolio.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...