Submission from EADS Astrium
I have pleasure in enclosing the EADS Astrium
Ltd. written submission to your inquiry on investigating the Oceans
and the important role they play in understanding climate change.
Measurements of the oceans by satellites have long been a major
contribution to scientific understanding, due to their ability
to provide data over large areas of otherwise inaccessible locations.
We are convinced that a strong relationship
between suppliers of Spaceborne sensors and the scientific communities
ensures a virtuous circle of mutual benefit and growth through
effective knowledge transfer. We have seen this in past years
in the fields of Sea Surface Temperature and sea ice measurementsdeveloping
a UK lead through combining scientific and technological capabilities.
Recently, this benefit has been recognised by the Natural Environment
Research Council (NERC) and DTI in the establishment of their
Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI)bringing
together scientists, technology researchers and industrial implementers.
The CEOI offers opportunities to augment the UK international
lead in climate change at policy, science and technology levels.
However, it is the evolution from scientific
missions to the long-term provision of satellite systems where
we are encountering difficulties. The "handing over"
of responsibility from NERC to user departments within government
is problematic. Currently, the UK positioning within the European
Earth observation programme that will shape the future of ocean
monitoring and climate change understanding is being severely
compromised by a lack of coordination across Government departments.
It is within this context of opportunity and
threat, set against the closing window of the Comprehensive Spending
Review, that I welcome the opportunity presented by the Inquiry
to highlight importance of space to the task of investigating
the oceans and the related climate change issues. I would be delighted
for the opportunity to give oral evidence before the Committee
to elaborate on these issues.
1. The UK has long been one of the leading
European nations in developing spaceborne technologies to meet
scientific needs. Indeed, the UK contribution to the ESA Earth
Explorer programme is handled by NERC to ensure that the scientific
goals are at the highest priority. This has proved to be a success
in terms of mission selection. However, the lack of a supporting
national programme has gradually allowed the science, technology
and industrial communities to drift apart. This has been recognised
by NERC and DTI through the recent establishment of the Centre
for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) which will bring
these communities together to ensure science-led technology developments.
2. There is, however, a more serious underlying
concern about the UK approach to evolving scientific missions
into long-term, sustainable monitoring systems. The change of
leadership between Earth science missions (NERC) and operational
missions (user departments) is proving difficult. The most recent
example of this is the European flagship environmental monitoring
programme, GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).
Previously, ERS-1/2 and ENVISAT had strong UK scientific and industrial
involvement, specifically in ocean and climate related areas.
Their evolution to the next generation operational systems under
GMES means that the job of coordinating the user-led response
has passed to DEFRA. The minimal contribution to the first phase
of the programme made by DEFRA at the ESA Ministerial Council
in 2005, in the face of a significant over-subscription across
the rest of Europe, demonstrates the problem.
3. Without long-term, consistent monitoring
on a global scale the challenges to continued investigation and
understanding of the oceans and of climate change will not be
met. The UK policy to allow other nations to foot the bill of
implementing the necessary monitoring systems needs to be reversed.
In the middle of 2007, European countries will need to subscribe
to the second phase of the programme, covering the period to 2013.
Without proper investment, British industry will be effectively
locked out from complementary EC funding of 1 billion. World
leading capabilities built up over the last 25 years will move
overseas with consequent impacts on jobs. The UK will also lose
the chance to shape the programme to maximise its value to climate
2.1 Focus of EADS Astrium's submission
4. EADS Astrium does not claim to be expert
in oceanographic or climate change science. We rely on partnerships
and relationships with organisations in NERC and other relevant
institutions for such expertise. As a result, our submission is
focused on the current situation in the UK for maintaining and
growing the space-based capability to support the ocean science
and user communities. Some background information is drawn from
the recent "Case for Space" studies undertaken in light
of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Currently, the situation
is crystallised through the UK Government position in the future
European Earth observation system, GMES.
2.2 About EADS Astrium
5. EADS Astrium is Britain and Europe's
leading Space company providing a full range of space products
from civil and military telecommunications to Earth observation,
science, exploration and navigation programmes. In Britain, Astrium
directly employs more than 2,500 people in its key sites in Portsmouth,
Poynton and Stevenage, representing more than half of the total
direct manufacturing workforce in UK Space, and the largest national
workforce in Astrium's worldwide satellite operations. EADS Astrium
has a strong history of working well within partnerships with
other UK companies, notably SMEs.
6. Space contributes to both ocean and climate
change understanding and monitoring by the provision of regular
information on regional, national, European and global scales.
The UK has taken a leading role in the developing space-based
Earth observation systems within Europe over the past 25 years.
The European Space Agency (ESA) environmental satellite series
started with ERS-1, launched in 1991, and went onto ERS-2 in 1995
and ENVISAT in 2002. EADS Astrium in the UK delivered sensors
for these missions enabling sea ice monitoring (Synthetic Aperture
Radar, SAR) and Sea Surface Temperature (Advanced Along Track
Scanning Radiometer, AATSR), in partnership with other UK companies,
research organisations and academia. These sensors have played
a major role in understanding and monitoring the oceans and related
impacts on climate change.
3.1 Case Study of UK Space Contribution to
7. Sea Surface Temperature, (SST) is an
important physical property that strongly influences the transfer
of heat energy, momentum, water vapour and gases between the ocean
and the atmosphere. The Earth's oceans act as an enormous reservoir
of heat and the top two metres of ocean alone store the equivalent
energy of all the energy contained in the atmosphere.
8. Measuring sea surface temperature from
space on a long-term basis is the most reliable way to establish
the rate of global warming.
9. As an example, ESA's Medspiration project
is currently obtaining SST data for the Mediterranean where to
obtain the same levels of data, the equivalent ground-based map
would need almost 1.5 million thermometers placed into the water
simultaneously. Combining data from multiple satellite systems
permits the production of robust models forecasting sea surface
3.2 Space in Support of Climate Change Science
10. For Climate Change adaptation to be
effective, governments as well as the private sector need information
about past and current climate conditions, their variability and
extremes, as well as sound projections of future conditions, not
only on a yearly basis but for many decades into the future. The
global carbon cycle connects oceans with the other two major components
of the earth systematmosphere and landeach storing
large pools of exchangeable carbon which for many centuries prior
to the industrial revolution were more or less in equilibrium.
Data from Earth observation satellites provide the only global,
synoptic view of key measures of the carbon cycle and form an
essential and central part of any integrated observation strategy.
Satellite contributions to the understanding of the carbon cycle
Global mapping of land cover
use, land cover change, and vegetation cover characteristics that
are important to full carbon accountingusing sensors such
as AATSR, AVHRR, Landsat and MODIS.
Seasonal growth characteristics
generated on a global scale using sensors such as AVHRR, MODIS,
MERIS, and SPOT VEGETATION.
Fire detection and burn scar
mapping, detected and mapped from space using thermal and optical
sensors (radar sensors also show promise for burn mapping).
Combinations of satellite measurements
of parameters such as ocean chlorophyll, dissolved organic matter,
and pigment composition.
Physical measurements from satellite
of ocean waves, winds, and temperature used to derive three main
contributions for the study of ocean carbon:
quantifying upper ocean biomass and
ocean primary productivity;
providing a synoptic link between
the ocean ecosystem and physical processes; and
quantifying air-sea CO2 flux.
11. As part of the measurements of the global
carbon cycle, sea level rises and sea surface temperature rises
are both good indicators of rates of global warming. Space based
technology is being used to monitor these indicators and the associated
changing global weather patterns, including establishing sea level
rise data, ice sheet thickness data, precipitation measurements,
and sea surface temperature (SST) data.
3.3 New Sensors for Future Oceanographic Applications
12. According to the recent evaluation by
the GMES Marine Services Implementation group, two of the key
challenges for future development are wide swath altimetry (for
mesoscale ocean height measurements) and geostationary ocean colour.
The first of these could be addressed by the current UK-led development
of the PARIS sensor. The development is likely to stop, or be
passed to other European countries, due to the lack of clear UK
funding policy. This will mean that the oceanographic science
community in the UK will miss out on the opportunity to establish
a leading position in this exciting opportunity.
4. DELIVERY OF
13. There are two phases in the lifecycle
of a space-based measurement system. Firstly, the scientific experimental
phaseestablishing requirements and understanding of the
associated Earth processesand secondly, the operational
phase, when the need for the continued monitoring of observables
is established. It is in the evolution between these two phases
that the failure occurs.
4.1 Co-ordinating Science and Industrial Communities
14. In delivering the first phase of the
lifecycle, there has been a drifting apart of the scientific and
industrial communities over the last 10 years, leading to a loss
of effectiveness in developing new sensors able to meet the emerging
15. A recent initiative by NERC and DTI
to establish the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation
(CEOI) aims to address the drifting apart of the science and industrial
communities. The CEOI has a clear remit to collect the emerging
science needs and translate those into relevant space technology
and instruments. Through this, we expect to see an improvement
in UK coordination which will only be turned into delivery of
high quality science if the supporting UK Space policy is better
coordinated than at present.
4.2. Delivery of long-term public good
16. In the second phase of the lifecycle,
the UKs "centrifugal" space policy is based on laudable
aims of engaging with user departments to ensure that, in the
first instance, funding is directed at those space programmes
with the greatest policy benefits, and secondly that these departments
are then best placed to shape and benefit from them. However,
the reality of space-based programmes is that they invariably
benefit a number of departments. Other countries recognise this
fact by investing in a funded central space agency with dedicated
expertise in space applications, which can then make informed
decisions for the whole of Government. The UK's British National
Space Centre is more of a secretariat, comprising around 30 highly-skilled
staff compared to, say 1,500 in its French equivalent, CNES. It
therefore relies heavily on the engagement of user departments.
17. However, the history of decision-making
under the UK's user-driven space strategy demonstrates clearly
that user departments, when given the lead responsibility, find
it difficult to consider broader benefits outside their own departmental
remits. Space decision-making therefore works best in Britain
when the benefits clearly fit within the remit and expertise of
the lead agencies within Government. For example, in the field
of Earth observation, NERC's commitment to scientific environmental
18. At the policy level, environmental monitoring
is supported by strong words. Both the Prime Minister's Natural
Hazards Working Group and the UKs 2005 G8 Summit both committed
strong UK support to strengthening environmental monitoring to
tackle climate change and natural disasters. Europe's flagship
environmental monitoring programme, GMES, should therefore have
topped the UK's space policy agenda, given the happy coincidence
of policy support for tackling Climate Change; recognition of
the role of environmental monitoring; and the UKs undisputed world
leadership in environmental space science and technology. However,
in December 2005, the UK opted to commit the minimal (1/4 GDP)
funding allowed into GMESthe UK's investment of £4
million per annum compares with £20 million per annum from
France and £24 million per annum from Germany.
19. The UK decision over GMES was caused
by three main factors: firstly, the lead Department, Defra, did
not significantly value those benefits from GMES outside its own
departmental remit, specifically the socio-economic benefits.
Secondly, Defra lacked the in-house expertise in Earth observation
that would have allowed it to make an informed decision on behalf
of the UK; and thirdly, there was an inadequate structure in place
to coordinate decision-making across Government departments.
20. To maximise public benefits from space,
and to improve policy coordination across Government, EADS Astrium
Continued successful lead in
the UK of NERC for the Earth Explorer programme at ESA.
Long-term commitment of NERC
and DTI to the Centre for EO Instrumentation, ensuring that the
virtuous circle between science, technology and instrumentation
is effective in all spheres of Earth scienceincluding the
An urgent reassessment by Government
of the UK's approach to GMESincluding the roles and responsibilities
of the lead department, DEFRA, in coordinating with the other
stakeholders: NERC, DTI, MOD and possible DfID. EADS Astrium remains
seriously concerned that, when the second phase of GMES requires
funding later this year, the UK could remain under-prepared.