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Editorial Autumn 2009

Beyond Sentinel Data Policy
The EO Data Policy envisaged by ESA proposes a free and unlimited access to Sentinel satellite data. This is expected to stimulate the value added services sector far beyond a successful implementation of operational GMES services.

However, it must not be forgotten that the Sentinels have been designed to ensure data continuity, filling gaps in existing international, national, and commercial missions. Consequently, the successful implementation of GMES services that correspond precisely to the user needs defined in the early stages of GMES, requires a non-discriminatory access to data from all these missions. Thus, a comprehensive GMES data policy needs to go beyond the Sentinels.

A European stakeholder process, involving commercial and public service and data providers, is now required to set up a comprehensive GMES data policy. It is now in the hands of the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament to initiate such an open consultation process to set a fundamental framework.

Access schemes for data and services need to be discussed, opportunities for future EO missions need to be defined. Various options are already successfully established in Europe and the Member States: public satellite missions, the combination of a publicly funded satellite with a commercial data exploitation, or the public procurement of EO data from established commercial data sources. Now is the time to transfer such opportunities into operational schemes via a comprehensive GMES Data Policy.

In a nutshell: data policy considerations must go beyond the Sentinel family. Only a comprehensive, free-of-charge access to EO satellite data leads to operational geo-information services that meet user requirements. A precise fulfilment of requirements and the availability make a GMES service a success. This is the key to high-quality geo-information becoming a “public good”. Based on this, a sustainable EO services business in Europe and a long-lasting global competitiveness can be built.

The European EO Data Policy is only one issue that we will be addressing in the next months. I expect that the continuation of the successful EARSC Seminars, maybe even the organisation of a dedicated GMES event, and the upcoming trade mission planning following the signature of eovox2, are other subjects that we will need to tackle throughout 2010.

Experience shows that, within the strong association of over 80 EO services companies that EARSC is today, we have a good chance of achieving even demanding targets. We will surely play our part in a constructive dialogue within and beyond the GMES framework. This will bring our sector forward for the benefit of all stakeholders involved: user organisations, political bodies, service providers, and – last but not least – the citizens of Europe.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for this very fruitful cooperation we are enjoying. I look forward to working within EARSC in the months and years to come.


With warm regards,
Nikolaus Faller, EARSC Vice-Chairman

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