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Reaching for the skies

Article Type: Case Study          Published: 07-2014         Views: 3683   



Europe's 'gateway to space' has teamed up with Interoute to deploy its SuperSites Exploitation Platform in the cloud and help Earth Science tackle geohazards.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international organisation with 20 member states. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to Europe and the wider world. ESA's space programmes are designed to find out more about the earth, its immediate space environment, the solar system and the universe, as well as to develop satellite-based technologies and services and promote European industries. ESA also works closely with space organisations outside Europe. There are around 2000 staff working for ESA, from all the Member States and include scientists, engineers, information technology specialists and administrative personnel.

Earth Observation data helps ESA to monitor climates, detect changes, attribute causes, understand the processes and support climate modelling and prediction. To do this, it uses satellites to monitor the natural world and gains valuable insight into the impact of melting ice, wild fires, and deforestation among other natural phenomena.

As part of its mission to support the scientific community and encourage better use of satellite data to monitor and track the planet, ESA needed to be able to analyse and interpret large volumes of data on demand. Making a larger pool of data available to scientific data users would help them to gain a better understanding of the process causing geohazards such as earthquakes and volcanic activity. To host this pool of data, ESA worked with a number of worldwide research institutes to develop a SuperSites Exploitation Platform (SSEP).

ESA was looking for a European partner to host its SSEP in the cloud. The organisation had previously worked with Interoute to deploy an IP Wide Area Network and connect 13 Earth Observation Payload Data Systems sites across Europe and Canada, which helped ESA rationalise and enhance its existing connection capabilities and connect its various Earth Observation Data Centres and main IT platforms. Impressed with Interoute's network capacity and availability, ESA selected the owner-operator of Europe's largest cloud services platform for a second time.

Jordi Farres, EOP Service Support & Ground Segment Technology Office at ESA explains, "We needed a European partner that could assist us with an expert and dedicated team, delivering a fast response to address all of our IT challenges and host this brand new platform in a highly secure environment."

Farres continues, "It was also important for us to work with a partner that had the scale and infrastructure to support us across our entire organisation, with a network footprint that mapped our own operations."

The SuperSites Exploitation Platform (SSEP) enables scientists to estimate land motion from radar data interferometry. This not only provides insight into Solid Earth science (volcanoes and earthquakes for instance), but also quantifiable risks to ESA. For example, combining land subsidence with sea level rise observations gives an idea of the flood risk in coastal mega-cities.

ESA used ICT technology to develop the SSEP, transform the way its satellite data was being used, processed and distributed, and encourage collaboration on cloud based e-Infrastructures.

e-Infrastructures provide the ICT infrastructures and services needed to empower the scientific community with easy and controlled online access to facilities, resources and collaboration tools. They enable instant access to data and remote instruments, the setup of virtual research communities and foster the emergence of e-Science; new working methods based on the shared use of ICT tools and resources across different disciplines and technology domains.

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