Satellite Industry To Benefit from Earth Summit

By | September 10, 2003 | Feature

Commercial opportunities for satellite imagery and manufacturing should arise from the international effort to coordinate and integrate information on the Earth’s environment. World governments are likely to need images and data from commercial remote sensing companies, as well as new, more technologically sophisticated satellites to gather vital information about the global environment, according to Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for satellite and information services at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Withee is a member of an U.S. interagency working group that is part of the international Ad Hoc Group on Earth Observation set up by government officials at the Earth Observation Summit held in Washington, D.C., in July.

“The commercial world will be invited to play along with the governments as contributors to this Earth observation system” being developed by the Ad Hoc Group, Withee said.

At the urging of the Bush administration, 30 nations met in Washington to develop a plan to coordinate efforts to monitor the Earth’s climate so that policies can be developed based on more reliable data concerning changes in the Earth’s climates and the causes of those changes.

The effort to integrate global observation systems was approved by the G-8 Group of industrialized countries meeting in Evian, France, in June.

Withee told Interspace that the commercial remote sensing industry is welcome to provide imagery to the governments participating in this Earth observation effort. “But they must play by the rules. So far, the overall rules governing this Earth observation system are that the data that are provided by the systems must be available in a full and open manner and that means with a minimum cost of distribution. The whole idea here is that we cannot solve global problems without exchanging observations and putting them in with good science and good modeling and issuing services and products that can shed light on these problems. That’s hard to do for the commercial world. They will be invited. I think some will say for a limited set of observations, maybe for disasters, that these images would be available at low cost.”

In addition, governments participating in this effort likely will need to purchase next-generation remote sensing satellites to provide the data needed for detailed monitoring. More than 50 percent of the satellite imagery will provided by government-owned satellites.

“I think there’ll be some excitement in the satellite community both commercial and government-based, keeping in mind that all the government satellites are built by the commercial world,” he said. This should spur demand for new satellite from commercial manufacturers as well, he noted.

The Ad Hoc group has been tasked to develop a 10-year implementation plan for this global Earth observation system in the fourth quarter of next year.

–Fred Donovan

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