Since the advent of Earth observation from space, satellite missions have become central to monitoring and learning about how the Earth works, resulting in significant progress in a broad range of scientific areas.
In the mid-1990s, ESA set up its Living Planet Programme and established a new approach to satellite observations for Earth science by working in close cooperation with the scientific community to define, develop and operate focused missions.
In 2006, ESA launched a new science strategy for the future direction of its Living Planet Programme in order to address the continuing need to further our understanding of the Earth system and the impact that human activity has on it.
The strategy includes 25 key scientific challenges addressing the different elements of the Earth system. The challenges, formulated under the guidance of the Earth Science Advisory Committee (ESAC) and in consultation with the scientific community, are guiding ESA’s efforts in developing the global capacity to understand our planet.
Reinforcing these strategies as well as ESA’s scientific support to researchers and industry, ESA has launched a new element of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP) – the Support to Science Element (STSE).
STSE is designed to provide scientific support to both future and on-going missions by taking a proactive role in the formulation of new mission concepts and providing multi-mission support to science.
Chair of ESAC, Prof. Johnny Johannessen of Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre said: "A strong ESA contribution to data exploitation, as planned in the STSE programme, will enhance the advances and achievements in scientific understanding of the Earth System.
"In turn, this will stimulate development of new applications that can contribute to improve quality of impact studies, nowcasting and forecasting with subsequent benefit to society.
"The continuing trend in the scientific community is towards multi-disciplinary investigation integrating data from many sources. The STSE will be an important and significant asset in this context."
Dr Stephen Briggs, ESA’s Head of Science, Applications and Future Technologies Department, said: "The value of ESA Earth observation data to the science community is very clear. The STSE will build on the long heritage of scientific exploitation by creating stronger links between ESA and scientists working with the data, implementing a key recommendation of our Science Advisory Committee.
"These modest investments by ESA Member States will reap significant rewards in the science community."
The programme, which will receive 25 Million Euro in funding for five years, will be implemented through four main Action Lines:
- Future Mission Concepts: supporting the development of novel mission concepts and its scientific agenda, facilitating the transferring of novel or non-space technologies to innovative EO mission ideas and enhancing the scientific capacity in member countries to prepare the next generation of EO missions.
- Novel Observations and Products: contributing to the development of novel and improved data observations and multi-mission based products exploiting ESA and non-ESA EO assets, exploring innovative retrieval methods and proposing new scientific uses of ESA data beyond the conventional scientific objectives and standard products of existing missions.
- Support to Earth Science: stimulating and supporting scientists to improve our understanding of the Earth system by responding to the needs of key international scientific programmes and encouraging activities that will improve modelling, data assimilation and forecasting by exploiting ESA data.
- Strategic Actions: contributing to the development the ESA EO science strategy, providing a fast response to key strategic scientific needs where ESA data may contribute and reinforcing the collaboration between ESA and the major scientific international programmes.
For each action line, ESA is issuing a number of Invitations to Tender (ITT) covering research and development activities in support of scientific institutions and industry in member countries.
Contracts will be placed by open competitive tender. The corresponding ITTs have been published in the ESA E-Mail Invitation To Tender System (EMITS).
To learn more about the projects and programme, visit the STSE website at www.esa.int/stse