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Earth observation

Satellite Remote Sensing is part of high-tech methods aiming at collecting, assembling and processing information which allow the monitoring of atmospheric, terrestrial and marine phenomena, whether natural or human-induced : weather conditions, vegetation growth, urban development, change in sea water quality, but also seismic and volcanic activities, floods, deforestation, erosion, desertification, pollutions, ozone concentration...

Belgian Earth Observation Research Programme

As early as 1984, Belgium understood the importance of remote sensing applications. Besides its commitment in the French SPOT programme and its participation in the ESA activities (European Space Agency), EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) en ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts), Belgium has launched a national Earth Observation research programme, initially called Telsat. Today, under the name STEREO III, the programme still fits within the framework of the overall Belgian research strategy for remote sensing which aims at:

  • Generalising the use of satellite data as information source
  • Contributing simultaneously to infrastructure, data support and data use
  • Introducing remote sensing in operational services
  • Consolidating Belgium’s EO expertise and facilitating its insertion into networks of international standing.

The financed projects fall under the priority themes inspired by the objectives of “Copernicus”, the European Commission’s Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security):

  • global monitoring of vegetation and evolution of terrestrial ecosystems;
  • management of the environment at regional and local levels: water, land, forests, nature reserves and biodiversity, agriculture, coastal zones, urban and peri-urban areas;
  • interactions between (changes in) land cover and climate change;
  • epidemiology and humanitarian aid;
  • Security and risk management

Belgian Earth Observation Platform
The Belgian Platform on Earth Observation want to provide you the most possible complete and relevant information on remote sensing activities with an emphasis on Belgian research in the domain.
Read more on the BEO-Platform website...

EOEdu - Observing our planet
Educational website on Earth Observation by satellite.
Read more on the EOEdu website...

Database of research projects FEDRA
Read more about Belgian Research Programmes on Earth Observation via FEDRA:
'STEREO III' - 'STEREO II' - 'STEREO I' - Scientific support for the exploitation of the "vegetation" instrument, or Telsat 4.


VEGETATION and PROBA-V programmes

The VEGETATION programme is the fruit of a collaboration between various European partners: Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden and the European Commission. In 1998, it was grafted onto the SPOT programme. The VEGETATION system consists of two observation instruments in orbit, as well as ground infrastructures. The two instruments on board of the SPOT 4 and SPOT 5 satellites have been specially designed to study the state of vegetation at a global level and to track its spatial and temporal evolution.

One of the most important contributions of Belgium is the funding and the hosting of the image processing centre (CTIV) at VITO in Mol (Belgium) which processes, distributes and archives the data products since the beginning of the programme. Since 1 January 2007, CTIV has held exclusive rights to the distribution of VEGETATION data among some 10,000 users all around the world.

The ESA's new PROBA-V "made in Belgium" satellite has been in orbit since 7 May 2013. It ensures the continuity of the monitoring of the earth's vegetation using a smaller, updated version of the VEGETATION sensor and, among other things, offers improved accuracy compared with its predecessors. The first two VEGETATION instruments delivered images of land details at a resolution of one kilometre, while the new tool on PROBA-V allows mapping at a resolution of 330 m, and even barely 100 m in some conditions.

The continuity of the VEGETATION programme was initially planned by the ESA, which implemented the development of a series of satellites known as ‘Sentinel’ within the framework of the COPERNICUS programme. One of the missions of the Sentinel programme was to supply global data, thanks to the two Sentinel-3A and 3B satellites. However, Sentinel-3 was delayed and the initial technical specifications of its onboard instruments evolved and were optimised to observe the sea and not vegetation.

Consequently, PROBA-V, which was originally designed as a gapfiller satellite between the end of Spot 5 and the launch of Sentinel-3, is now considered as a completely separate mission.
Read more on the PROBA-V website...

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