Space Products & Innovation
Energy, Resources, and Environmental Management
Imaging and remote sensing satellites have become indispensable in both consumer and government applications by virtue of their unique vantage point and global coverage. While optical imaging sensors are among the most common in remote sensing applications, some satellites carry specialized instruments that are able to collect a variety of geophysical data, such as local gravity, soil moisture, or atmospheric properties.
In addition to monitoring the environmental changes happening around the globe, space technology is being used to advance clean energy, reducing the production of the types of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.
Changes in oceanic conditions are also opening up new habitats for animals, and satellites are helping to track how animals are adapting. In a 2011 study, scientists presented the first observations of the meeting of bowhead whales from two different oceans in the Northwest Passage.
Satellites contribute not only to our understanding of the atmosphere and features on the ground, but also to our understanding of the oceans. The Aquarius/SAC-D satellite, launched in June 2011, is a collaboration between NASA and Argentina’s space agency, Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE), that is able to detect variations in the salinity of the ocean surface.
Though some areas of the globe may experience extreme heat, ice still covers about 10% of the Earth, and satellites are greatly improving our understanding of it. In June 2011, ESA’s CryoSat mission delivered the best view yet of sea-ice thickness across the entire Arctic Ocean basin.
Satellites are essential to understanding our environment and providing a global perspective on changes. Much of the United States experienced a record-breaking heat wave in July 2011. In addition to monitoring the temperature with sensors on the ground, satellites were also used.
The DeforestACTION project is using satellite imagery to combat illegal logging through its Earth Watchers software tool, currently in beta testing. The difficulty of locating and identifying illegal deforestation often prevents law enforcement from limiting this activity. DeforestACTION allocates each person involved in the project a piece of land to monitor, providing them with an updated satellite image each week so they can locate changes and disturbances.
In September 2011, scientists in India announced that satellite images had shown a nearly 30% reduction in the backwaters of the state of Kerala. These picturesque lagoons, near the Arabian Sea, are an important tourist attraction. Scientists plan to continue using satellites to investigate the cause of this reduction.
In addition to providing important information during emergencies, remote sensing satellites can be useful for land use and urban planning, and natural resources management. In August 2011, the NigeriaSat-2 remote sensing satellite was launched.