Task 3.2

Satellites, communication and remote sensing

The facilities, infrastructure and operations of European nations in the polar regions are increasingly reliant on a huge array of space infrastructure. The vast and harsh nature of the polar environment means that satellite technologies are proving to be a most efficient and practical means of providing consistent, year-round capacity for communications, navigation and a range of broad scale observations.
Increasing coordination of space activities is evident at a European and wider international level. However, the use of these assets by polar scientific research organisations would benefit from significantly improved coordination and coordinated support. The development of future space assets will in turn benefit from coordinated statement of requirements from the polar science community, and sharing of resources including support for data reception, calibration and validation activities and terrestrial analogue sites.

This task will engage with relevant stakeholders, both public and industry, to determine how to better coordinate access to space assets and facilities to support polar infrastructure and operations. Many of the ambitions and aims are captured in the developing Memorandum of Understanding between the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Polar Board (EPB) concerning cooperation in the Polar Regions. With its extensive experience in atmospheric and space research, the British Antarctic Survey (NERC-BAS) is the natural choice to lead this task. The French Institut Polaire Francais Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) with its good relations to ESA will co-lead. The Research Council of Norway (RCN) and the Italian National Research Council - Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies (CNR-DTA) will also contribute to this task.

The task will be split into three thematic areas and will focus on:

Satellite communications

Communications in the Arctic and Antarctic are difficult and often expensive due to the lack of ground based infrastructure. Satellite communications offer a potential solution, but current orbit configurations for communication satellites limit current effectiveness. A number of initiatives are being considered, including utilising old geostationary capacity or satellites in highly elliptical orbits to provide better coverage. Coordinated engagement with these activities will benefit all involved. This activity will involve several industry organisations and the ESA ARTES programme. The aim will be to influence new polar communication satellite systems so they take into account the needs of the European Polar Research Programme, and to explore working with industry to explore joint purchasing or sharing of satellite bandwidth to increase the return of scientific data from the Polar Regions in near real-time and to significantly reduce costs.

Satellite navigation

GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) systems are now widely used for all forms of navigation and survey in the Polar Regions. They are also widely used in autonomous instrumentation for both position and timing. The European GALILEO system will provide improved capability, compatible with existing GPS and Glonas systems. However GNSS-based positioning and navigation in the Polar Regions face a number of limitations (ionosphere effects, lack of augmentation systems) that cannot be easily overcome. This activity will ensure these limitations are studied and understood and coordinate requirements with the responsible agencies. The aim will be to deliver better and safer European navigation and survey systems in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Earth observation satellites

Satellites have provided data to support polar logistics and infrastructure for decades, e.g. meteorological observations and sea ice information. The observations provided by satellites provide valuable scientific data, but also drive improved safety and greater efficiency for polar operators. Greater use of remote monitoring methods also minimises the need for personnel to be deployed on the ground and therefore minimises the impact on the polar environment. The number of Earth observing satellites and those specifically targeted at the Polar Regions, has increased in recent years (e.g. Icesat). Programmes coordinated and funded by ESA and the European Commission, in particular Copernicus, will deliver improved operational satellite observations into the future. However better coordination of access and statement of requirements from European polar operators is required.

Work Package lead

Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley
British Antarctic Survey(BAS)
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 (0)1223 221523
Email: beatrix@bas.ac.uk

Task leads