COSMO-SkyMed: images to protect our planet.
from Leonardo SUSTAINABILITY AND INNOVATION REPORT
Viewed from satellites, Earth is overwhelmingly beautiful but it is also sending us strong messages we can no longer ignore. Glaciers and corals are now resisting against temperatures never experienced before. Tropical forest are being invaded by increasing urbanization. It is a constantly changing world and the satellite systems show us the consequences of mankind activities on the environment.
Thanks to data and images collected by the COSMO-SkyMed satellite system we can monitor the effects of climate change by observing and analysing desertification, flooding, rising sea levels, natural disasters such as landslides or earthquakes, and progressive glacier melting. Over Italy, for example, the system can monitor movements related to the Alps and the Apennines, in order to acquire information which is useful to assess land stability and to support avalanche and landslide prevention activities.
Terrestrial ice is the element that is the most sensitive to climate change: this is where the effects of global warming are felt the most. Alaska, Siberia and Antarctica were the first to show our Planet’s critical condition. COSMO-SkyMed has been observing the movements of the giant A-68 iceberg since July 2017 when it calved from the Larsen-C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. A-68 covers an area of approximately 5,800 square kilometres (as large as the island of Cyprus).
Iceberg A-68, Larsen C, Antarctic. COSMO-SkyMed image © ASI
Climate is not the only element jeopardizing the sustainability of rice fields in South East Asia. Threats arise from different sources such as climate change, use of pesticides, anthropization and industrialization. There is an increasingly interested in space technologies and applications with new development prospects for the use, in particular, of COSMO-SkyMed data. A COSMO-SkyMed satellite reception station has also been installed in Thailand to assess rice cultivation because the radar is sensitive to moisture and water and is therefore able to perform precise assessments.
Rice fields in Ayutthaya Province in Thailandia. COSMO-SkyMed image © ASI
The deserts that stretch between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn for tens of millions of square kilometers are sentinels of climate change. The Chilean Atacama Desert is the most arid desert on Earth: it has not received rainfall for over four hundred years. In order to guarantee the cultivation in the desert it is necessary, therefore, to protect the precious reserves of water and the images of the COSMO-SkyMed satellites help us to achieve this goal.
Mojave Desert in the United States. COSMO-SkyMed image © ASI
Sustainable forest management is one of the possible solutions to the critical issues afflicting these habitats and their precious resources for the balance of the planet’s ecosystem. The increased interest in social and environmental sustainability offers the forest industry a great opportunity to develop new approaches. The deforestation activities are monitored by comparing the images produced by COSMO-SkyMed satellites at different times. The COSMO-SkyMed radar sensors allow constant monitoring, day and night and in all weather conditions, making them the ideal solution for an area like the Amazon, characterized for most of the year by frequent rains and constant cloud cover.
Los Rios Forest (Ecuador). COSMO-SkyMed image© ASI
Colniza, Mato Grosso (Brazil). COSMO-SkyMed multi-temporal composition highlighting deforestation activities underway in Brazilian forests. COSMO-SkyMed image © ASI
The COSMO-SkyMed system has been active for over 10 years. It is a constellation made of four X-band radar satellites (to observe the Earth day and night, regardless of weather conditions) made by Thales Alenia Space Italia (Thales/Leonardo) and a ground system made by Telespazio (Leonardo/Thales) which ensures control of the constellation, in addition to programming, acquisition, processing and delivery of images to civil and military users during all phases of the mission. The data is distributed worldwide by e-GEOS.
Starting from 2018, the second generation of the system (also developed by Leonardo and its joint ventures) will progressively replace the current one, thus improving efficiency and capacity in key sectors for security and environmental protection, such as land monitoring, sustainable exploitation of resources, security and management of natural events and emergencies, and contrasting the effects of climate change.