CSIRO has signed an agreement with the European Space Agency to allow more sharing of scientific expertise and to give Australia better access to the space agency’s extensive Earth observation satellite fleet.

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The agreement, which was signed into effect at the Paris Air Show yesterday, enhances Australia's involvement in European Earth observation programs. It gives CSIRO and Australia's research community improved access to massive new datasets produced by the European Space Agency's programs, such as the upcoming 'Biomass' mission that will help improve the way we map forests, crops, other natural vegetation and their carbon stocks.

"The collaboration with the European Space Agency further strengthens Australia's ability to do world class research and innovation, and also strengthens our global position in the space economy," said CSIRO’s Executive Director of National Facilities and Collections Dr David Williams, who signed the agreement for CSIRO.

"Currently there are over 100 Australian government programs and hundreds of researchers relying on data from foreign satellites, making Australia one of the largest users world-wide of Earth observation data."

The agreement focuses on collaborations between Australian and European researchers around calibration of the sensors on European satellites, and evaluating the data for use in Australia, as well as jointly developing new applications and space technologies for future satellites. This will improve Australia's overall access to data from the European Space Agency's Earth observation missions and benefit governments, researchers, industry and communities.

"ESA is welcoming the increased cooperation with Australia. It will strengthen scientific links and stimulate industrial opportunities. The cooperation will also improve the calibration and validation of Earth observation data over Australia and improve by that the data quality of our missions," said ESA's Director for Earth Observation Programmes, Prof Volker Liebig.

"We expect this agreement will also stimulate new scientific collaborations with European partners, and help identify where Australian scientists can support Europe's €80 billion 'Horizon2020' science and technology program," said Dr Alex Held, a Group Leader and expert in Earth observation at CSIRO.

"This agreement is likely to also create new opportunities for partnerships between CSIRO, the Australian space-industry and the European space-sector on future space hardware, services and sensor development."

Other Australian research organisations, such as Geoscience Australia, and academic institutions undertaking remote sensing science also stand to benefit from the deal.

Australian Ambassador to the European Union, Dr Mark Higgie, said, "This strengthening of the relationship recognises the value of Australian - European collaboration in Earth observation technologies and applications.

"This is a most welcome development which will open pathways for further leading-edge development between researchers and industries in Australia and Europe. This agreement highlights yet another important element in the rich web of co-operation between us."

CSIRO and Australia already have various agreements with the European Space Agency to collaborate on space science and technology, and have been sharing data and expertise for many years.

The European Space Agency has an operating facility in Western Australia that is used to track their various space science missions that visit other planets. The facility recently tracked the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as part of their 'Rosetta' mission.

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Images

  • The Sentinel-2A satellite, seen here being prepared for launch, will take part in the ESA’s Biomass mission. © M Pedoussaut, ESA

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  • The ‘Outback Rover’, a prototype autonomous vehicle developed by CSIRO, helps to calibrate satellites.

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  • A visualisation of Sentinel-2 satellite in space. © ESA/ATG medialab

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