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Entrepreneurs identify new trends in satellite business

Paris, France: The second day of the 3rd Symposium on Earth Observation Business organised by Euroconsult saw an enriching round of discussion and debate on a host of issues related to satellite manufacturers, data distributors and emerging EO operators’ plans.

Opening the satellite manufacturers’ session, Sir Martin Sweeting, Chairman, SSTL identified the new trends in satellite business in the backdrop of unstable financial situation.  He said SSTL is looking to leasing EO satellites to optimise the satellite capacity and minimise the capital expenditure on the operators. This is similar to the situation in communications satellite, he pointed out.

Explaining the technological innovations at SSTL, Sir Sweeting informed that along with Astrium, SSTL has developed medium resolution and wide swath satellite design. SSTL is also trying to get optical satellites into radar domain.

Cary W Ludtke, Vice President and General Manager, Civil and Operational Space, Ball Aerospace opined that the one thing that is of concern to satellite manufacturers is the changing global economy as US is not in isolation and the phenomena is world wide. In this backdrop, he felt the best way for satellite business is to do things in a cost effective manner. He opined that many opportunities lie ahead for distributed architectures, which will prove to be a cost effective solution.

Luigi Pasquali, Deputy CEO, Thales Alenia Space opined that the management of space programmes in Europe is not very mature. ESA and EC share different perspectives on the issue and said EC may soon decide whether to move ahead with GMES programme or not. So, there is a level of uncertainity and/or immaturity in the management of space programmes, he added. However, ESA could improve the situation by bringing in effective cooperation among the member states to work in a coherent way to manage space programmes.

Enumerating the three principles guiding Lockheed Martin, Ed Irvin, Vice President International, said, relevance, performance and innovation are the three pillars of Lockheed Martin’s success. He said making the satellite systems relevant and affordable to customers is as important as the performance of the system. Affordability is a challenge for all satellite manufacturers as they have different variables to be managed while simultaneously reducing the costs. Innovation, both in technology as well as in business models and continue to work with the global supply chain. Agreeing with Ed, Bruno Le Stradic, Director of Earth Observation and Science, Astrium Satellites said that Astrium has been pioneering in innovation, both with technology and business models with Spot 6 and Spot 7 satellites.
After the initial comments, the panelists took a range of questions from the audience on satellite costs, political implications, IT based approach, export and domestic opportunities, customer expectations etc.

Prospects for civil government usage of EO data and services
In another panel, panellists discussed the prospects of EO data for civil government use. Charles Baker, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Info services, NOAA, informed that in the backdrop of financial and political difficulties in the USA, NOAA is doubling its efforts to seek out international collaboration. It is engaging itself with GEOSS and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites.

Jose Achache, Director, GEO Secretariat enumerated the activities and initiatives of GEO and GEOSS and informed that GEO is trying to coordinate data sharing initiatives and predict the direction for earth observation. He informed that governments across the world are in need of earth observation data for decision making more than ever. There is a growing need for accurate weather forecasting, to forecast extreme events and to monitor crops.

According to Achache, another sector developing fast and promising for earth observation sector is forest monitoring. Governments are trying to reduce deforestation in tropical countries. Similarly, water management is yet another important sector, he opined and added that earth observation information is one of several information the government seeks to make informed decisions. Yet, EO data is proving to be quite valuable to the governments, he observed.  Stefano Burzzi, Chair, Committee on Earth Observation Satellites added his impressions about the present situation in government use and understanding about EO data. This was followed by yet another thought provoking discussion on the governments’ perspective and utiity of EO data for decision making.

Source: Our Correspondent