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NDC - News-Senior Course 142 visit to the European Space Research Institute

Senior Course 142 visit to the European Space Research Institute

  • 27 Jun. 2023
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  • Last updated: 21 Jan. 2024 12:55

On 23 June 2023, Course Members of Senior Course (SC) 142 visited the European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) in Frascati, Italy.

Course Members at the ESA Ф-lab

The ESRIN visit is an integral part of Study Period E for SC 142, and a key element in addressing the topic of “Space as a Military Domain”. NDC and ESRIN have a long-standing and extremely valuable cooperation, spanning over 20 years. The programme of the visit was developed and facilitated by ESRIN, with a series of briefings as well as a visit to the main areas of the Earth Observation Centre.

ESRIN belongs to the European Space Agency (ESA) and it is located in Frascati, Italy, just outside Rome. Approximately 200 ESA staff work at ESRIN in addition to a number of contractors. ESRIN is responsible for coordinating the more than 30 ground stations that receive satellite data from ESA’s Earth observation missions, as well as from missions by the United States, Russia and Japan, and distributing these data to ESA’s partners. The design and development of ESA’s information technology is also carried out at ESRIN, which is responsible for the information systems and software used at ESA.

Upon arrival, the NDC delegation first received an introductory briefing about ESA, ESRIN, and Earth observation by Simonetta Cheli, Director of Earth Observation Programmes and Head of ESRIN. Course Members heard presentations about the “Copernicus Programme” by Pierre Potin, Head of the Copernicus Space Office, ESA; “ESA’s Security-Related Activities” by Pascal Legai, Senior Security Coordinator, ESA; “The European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) in Support of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Missions & Operations and Member States” by Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Director of SatCen (former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges); “NATO’s Approach to Space” by Pino Nobile, Head of the Geospatial Section, SITCEN at NATO HQ; “Security Applications of Civilian Earth Observation” by Gordon Campbell, Head of the Enterprise Section, ESA; and “Integrated Surveillance for Planetary Defence” by Juan Luis Cano, from Planetary Defence Information Provision Coordination, ESA.

After the briefings, Course Members were able to visit the Earth Observation Centre, comprising an Earth data visualisation centre (Φ-Experience), a long-term data preservation exhibit area (Heritage Missions Walkthrough) and a permanent exhibition (Memorabilia Wall).

The Φ-Experience is an exhibition room using interactive display technologies to raise awareness and enhance the visibility of ESA’s Earth observation programmes and applications. Here the Course learned, through fascinating visual and interactive equipment, about the benefits of Earth observation for monitoring global changes.

This was followed by ESRIN’s Heritage Missions Walkthrough (HMW). Today, ESA archives store more than 45 years of heritage satellite data on our Earth system that are crucial for many applications, such as climate change monitoring, and are kept accessible and usable by users through a dedicated ESA programme.
Records of the technologies, media and techniques used in the initial phases of Earth observation activities at ESA and of their evolution over time are conserved and made accessible to the public in the Heritage Missions Walkthrough (HMW) visitor area. The Walkthrough provides a snapshot of Earth observation history at ESA, describing the work done by Earth observation pioneers at the Agency and preserving this institutional memory for future generations.

Finally, Course Members got a chance to see the Memorabilia Wall, a permanent exhibition aiming at presenting the historical context of several ESA programmes and activities. It is a collection of items from across the Agency, including spare satellite subsystems, real debris, old space magazines, historical videos and communication material.

After an eventful and highly informative study visit to ESRIN, Course Members left the Research Institute with invaluable insights into the security and military dimensions of space.

Dedicated to ESA’s Earth-observing activities, ESA-ESRIN is the European centre of excellence for exploitation of Earth observation missions. The mission and payload operations of ESA's Earth observation satellites are managed here, and ESRIN is the primary source for the acquisition, distribution, and exploitation of data from these and other, i.e. non-ESA, satellites. ESRIN also designs and develops all ESA-wide software for corporate applications and is responsible for developing security measures for classified space programmes.

NDC Public Affairs Office
(Prepared by Ms Zsofia Juhasz, HUN C)