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Top News from the IAF's Global Space Applications Conference (GLAC)

Press Release From: International Astronautical Federation
Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

IAF PR 03-2014, 11 June 2014: The Global Space Applications Conference organised in cooperation with UNESCO took place from 2 -4 June 2014. It was the third IAF ‘Global Series’ conference, following the Global Lunar Conference (GLUC) in Beijing in 2010, and the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) in Washington DC in 2012.   

260 participants registered for GLAC, which took place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. The UNESCO Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences ad interim Dr Wendy Watson-Wright, gave an opening speech in which she stated that space applications are used across UNESCO’s mandate. Images from space are a key management tool for UNESCO inscribed sites, and provide better monitoring of poaching and illegal logging, and endangered animal habitats.

At the opening plenary on Monday 2 June, the Group on Earth Observation’s Director Ms Barbara Ryan placed emphasis on capacity building and sharing expertise in earth observations, stating that "we want users to uptake data more”. Dr Sandile Malinga, Director of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) highlighted the ways in which satellite applications are improving the daily lives of South Africans, from more efficient communications to better agricultural monitoring and planning. 

A presentation given on behalf of the OECD’s Claire Jolly heard that space-based services are “tools to reach a number and international policy objectives”, and that the annual OECD Space Forum looks at the potential socio-economic impact of space applications. In her capacity as Executive Secretary of the Intergovermental Oceanographic Commission, Dr Watson-Wright also highlighted the importance of satellite imagery for monitoring our oceans, including monitoring and temperatures, upwelling along coasts, and harmful algal blooms. She cited the dramatic increase in number of “dead zones” in our oceans, with 245 000km2 now affected.

Plenary 1 followed in the afternoon of 2 June, and saw industry leaders speak about the Challenging Market of Space Applications. Michel de Rosen of Eutelsat noted that satellites are "remarkable tools for emerging countries" and predicted a growing convergence between TV & web services. He said that a major challenge is lack of information, with many unaware that satellites can help fulfil their needs, for example bringing broadband to people who need it. Eurisy Secretary-General Mr Stefaan De Mey said that his organisation has been working with Eutelsat to innovate in mobilising funds, for example getting EU structural funds to invest in broadband.

Managing Director of Sport Image SA Mr Philippe Pham highlighted their work in surface motion, elevation and mosaic images, and the WorldDEM programme, while Telespazio reported their work on disaster response amongst other issues: Within 25 minutes of an oil spill, they provide a report to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), who alert authorities. This has had a strong direct effect, reducing pollution in the Mediterranean sea by up to 50%. Mr Carlo des Dorides then highlighted the growing GNSS marketplace, which could be worth more than €200 billion by 2020, and Inmarsat’s Mr James Cemmell noted that satellite applications are “one of the few truly global industries”, whose benefits are seen “only when global cooperation prevails.” Mr Jacques Breton from Arianespace emphasised that European independent access to space is important, and needs to be available and affordable.  

On Tuesday June 3, Plenary 2 addressed Space Applications for Monitoring and Understanding Climate Change. Mr Chu Ishida from JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency, showcased the ‘GSMaP’ US-Japanese project used for monitoring precipitation and typhoons. Mr Mark Müller from Airbus Defence and Space spoke on increasing resilience through earth observations, highlighting the GMES/Copernicus FP7 project ‘IncREO’. IncREO users benefit from risk and vulnerability mapping, damage assessment, risk map products, and multi-risk maps for hot-spot regions. Mr Christian Egenhofer from the Center for European Policy Studies said that better understanding of future potential climate change will help meet targets such as those of the UNFCCC.    

High-level panels at GLAC also addressed the issue of Barriers to Access to Space Applications, with one session hearing from the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Head of Communications, and the President of the European Meteorological Society. At this panel, UNCOPUOS Chair Yasushi Hoshikawa noted that science and technology bodies need to publicly communicate projects where earth observations are used for sustainable development, to stimulate policy interest in space applications. GEO Director Ms Barbara Ryan commented that by not making high-resolution imagery freely available, universities and research institutes are not able to achieve their full potential. A subsequent Virtual Forum session on Tuesday 3 June allowed 40 participants to take part in GLAC remotely via webinar, and ask questions to the high-level panel.

Wednesday June 4 saw Plenary 3 on The Role of Governmental Agencies in Developing Space-based Services assemble speakers from CNES, ESA, SANSA, JAXA, EUMETSAT, ROSCOMOS, the WMO, UNOOSA and the European Commission. European Space Agency Director-General Professor Jean-Jacques Dordain underlined the “strong societal value" of space applications, and that services combining space and terrestrial monitoring produce unique capabilities.

President of CNES Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall outlined CNES's new instruments for meteorology (‘IASING’), oceanography (‘SWOT’) and vegetation monitoring (Venus), while Mr Sandile Malinga of SANSA outlined his organisation’s role in providing observational infrastructure for benefit of higher education and R&D institutions. He noted the multiplier effect of high-skilled space jobs for all economies and not only South Africa’s. Ms Catherine Mealing-Jones of the UK Space Agency UK Space Agency said that space applications are one of UK's '8 Great Technologies’, and that UKSA will partner with SMEs who can take advantage of the sector. Professor Johann-Dietrich Wörner of the German Aerospace Center stressed the need to define society’s demands in space applications, in order to provide globally supported solutions.

15 technical sessions throughout GLAC addressed different topics related to space applications including integrated satellite-based applications, remote sensing and positioning, satellite-based services in support of disaster management, legal and regulatory aspects and mobile telecommunications. There was also a poster exhibition of over 50 posters, side meetings on space technology for world heritage monitoring, and presentations by industry sponsors. The Final Programme of GLAC is available to download on the IAF’s website at www.iafastro.org.

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