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Remote Sensing and GEOINT

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New Earth Observation Satellites & a Rush to Video Imagery from Space

Thursday, April 3rd 2014
By Joe Francica

Ever since the first remote sensing earth observation satellite was put into space and allowed geoscientists to peer at the surface there's been a call to get the data faster. With the release of the first imagery today from UrthCast and before that from Skybox's SkySat-1 last December 27th, high definitation video is coming closer to reality. While today's UrthCast data is only a multispectral, 6-meter spatial resolution image, it was a precursor to the company's ultimate goal of delivering Ultra High-Definition video. UrthCast's imager resides onboard the International Space Station (ISS) while SkySat-1 in an orbiting satellite, the first of 24 the company hopes to launch.

Also today, the European Space Agency's Sentinel-1A satellite is expected to be put into space, the first satellite of Europe’s Copernicus program set for launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Sentinel-1 carries a radar sensor primarily for weather and environmental applications. To support the launch of the satellite and expectations of new potential applications and data products, ESA has launched the Copernical-Masters compeition, explained as follows:

To support this new era, the Copernicus Masters competition will give recognition to outstanding ideas, applications, and business concepts that utilise Earth observation data for commercial purposes and socially relevant projects. Along with cash prizes, the winners will receive technical support in realising their ideas, access to satellite data, and start-up support from a prize pool worth a total of more than EUR 300,000. In 2014, for the first time, the Copernicus Masters is carried out on a worldwide basis. Geared primarily toward start-ups and other companies, researchers, and students, the competition will require entrants to submit their applications from 15 April to 13 July 2014 at

Skybox along with European Space Imaging are collaborating on to promote the Copernicus Master Challenge as well in hopes of also spurring innovation and new applications. According to the press release issued by both companies:

“The European Space Imaging & Skybox Imaging High-Res Challenge” is looking for new, viable application ideas for this sub-daily availability of very high-resolution (VHR), multispectral data from the Skybox Imaging satellite. The partners are hoping researchers and developers will think outside the box in proposing ideas that have real future potential. The winner will receive a European Space Imaging data package of Skybox Imaging satellite data valued at EUR 20,000 to apply in realizing their application idea.

With new satellites and a rush to provide high-definition video, there will be faster turn-around of available data to both researchers as well as the media, and opens a new era in earth observation.

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