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Spacemetric – Proven solutions for image management

A flood of new geospatial imagery threatens to drown us. Digital airborne sensors are used in increasing numbers, and hundreds of new EO satellites are forecast over the next decade.

This means that image archives of terabytes and petabytes will become the norm, and many organisations will need a different approach to finding data among their holdings and making it ready to use. Spacemetric has a long-established expertise and experience in providing solutions for large and diverse image data holdings that are well suited to meeting these new challenges.

Spacemetric was founded in 1999 by two employees of the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC). The aim of the new company was to commercialise the image production technology they had developed within SSC since the 1980s. Rigorous photogrammetric methods formed the core of the company’s first product, the SIP/Ortho image workstation. Later, in 2003, the European Space Agency leveraged this expertise to provide a web mapping server for satellite browse imagery. Spacemetric’s solution enabled browse images in the ESA catalogue to be seen for the first time in their correct geographical context. The process applied to the browse images a modified form of the physical sensor models that Spacemetric already used so successfully for orthoprocessing of commercial satellite imagery. The browse images were rectified on the fly in large numbers. To guarantee performance, Spacemetric deployed new technologies including application servers to enable parallel processing of multiple browse images. These innovations marked the start of the new, server-oriented business model for the company.

Keystone Console client is an open-source project

In 2004 Spacemetric combined their new server technologies with more of the company’s existing know-how in image production and advanced photogrammetric methods, including the use of ground control to achieve sub-pixel geolocation accuracy in orthoimages. This enabled the automation of orthoimage production by correlation to reference imagery. Customer solutions at the time included DMC International Imaging, where an automated geometrical pre-processing of imagery improved the initial geolocation accuracy of DMC satellite imagery from several kilometres to better than a hundred metres using global Landsat data as a reference. Another customer of note was the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands, who demonstrated a mobile satellite ground station as part of NATO exercises that received and processed Spot and Eros-A1 imagery. This data was automatically orthoprocessed using Spacemetric’s server that, in the case of the Eros data, used aerial reference imagery to achieve sub-pixel geolocation accuracy.

In late 2005 the first version of the company’s flagship, the Keystone Image Management System, was delivered to DMC International Imaging. This was co-funded by the Swedish National Space Board. The support from DMCii was key to its success and built upon the confidence gained from the simpler geoprocessing server delivered previously by Spacemetric. The Keystone system was a huge leap in capabilities that provided an integrated package incorporating an image archive, catalogue and product generation engine. The Keystone system was the first integrated solution to search and overview very large data holdings and zoom in to full resolution with no need to pre-process the data into an orthoimage map layer.

In 2006 Spacemetric built upon the success of the first Keystone system delivery with a number of contracts that introduced the technology to new customers and applications. A solution for the unit responsible for agricultural subsidy monitoring at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) provided an integrated back-end to the Commission Image Data Portal including cataloguing and orthoprocessing of satellite imagery from multiple commercial satellite sensors. Meanwhile, a system for the Swedish Land Survey (Lantmäteriet) provided a completely new, high-capacity management and production environment for aerial orthoimagery. At this time the Land Survey faced multiple challenges with a new Z/I DMC digital camera generating more data than ever before, the introduction of a new map system in Sweden, and the need for continued support of the old map system. Just having an overview of the available imagery, then locating and making it ready for use, was a significant challenge. The Spacemetric solution addressed all of these issues and was selected over alternatives from better-known suppliers. Subsequent enhancements have included workflow automation and the introduction of multi-threaded parallel processing for very high processing throughput. Meanwhile, applications of the system have been extended to include scanned analogue airphotos and historical maps.

A small but significant feasibility project from 2006 came of age in 2007. This study demonstrated to the defence contractor, SAAB, and the Swedish Air Force that Spacemetric’s Keystone system could manage and process classified imagery from the new SPK39 reconnaissance pod for the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jet fighter. Orders for several Keystone systems for this application followed. These systems manage rapidly growing archives of imagery and operate in a very time-constrained environment where new and existing data are accessed by an analyst who has less than an hour from the aircraft’s landing to generate completed intelligence reports. Spacemetric’s Keystone solution enables the analyst to quickly search and overview all available data and retrieve only the necessary imagery SPK-39 reconnaissance pod (Courtesy: Gripen International)

Also significant during 2007 was an order to provide the infrastructure for the Swedish national satellite image database Saccess ( This initiative was jointly funded by several Swedish government agencies and managed by the Swedish Land Survey. It offers online access to historical satellite imagery over Sweden stretching back to the 1970s and features a new high-resolution coverage of the entire country every year. Spacemetric provided both the back-end systems to manage the imagery and generate the user products, and the front-end web portal for product ordering. Since its release in summer 2008, over 1,000 users have registered, and several terabytes of image products have been delivered. The Saccess concept is now being extended to Denmark. A final item in 2007 was a Keystone system order from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., well known for their small satellites. This concerned the Deimos-1 satellite, a mission within the Disaster Monitoring Constellation. The satellite is owned and operated by Deimos Imaging, a Spanish company created for the purpose of data commercialisation. It carries a 22-metre, wide-swath multispectral sensor.

The Keystone system provides a custom sensor model, mission catalogue, image archive and product processing functions. The Deimos order from SSTL was followed by another in 2008 for the rather more sophisticated Nigeriasat-2 mission. This satellite has a 2.5 metre sensor and a highly agile platform that enables off-nadir acquisitions and the imaging of overlapping areas on the same pass. The Keystone system for this mission has specific capabilities to allow full exploitation of these data. Nigeriasat-2 has an agile platform with a 2.5 metre sensor (Courtesy: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd)

Spacemetric entered into a significant cooperative venture during 2008 with ITT Visual Information Solutions. Based in Boulder, Colorado, ITT VIS develops and markets the popular ENVI image processing suite. The cooperation with Spacemetric concerns a rigorous orthorectification module to complement the existing ENVI tools. Spacemetric’s Keystone technology provides the back-end “brains” to provide physical sensor models for satellite and airborne sensors and advanced geometrical processing. ITT VIS provides the user interface and worldwide product marketing. Released in early 2009, the Envi Orthorectification Module has been adopted by a number of organisations including the US Marine Topographic Production Center.

In 2009 the Keystone Image Management System became part of several other new initiatives. For the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands the Keystone system is now the solution adopted for managing airborne video imagery in the development of UAV capabilities for security applications. For the Disaster Monitoring Constellation it already forms the core of the multi-mission ground segment and is playing a central role in the ongoing integration of these missions within the Heterogeneous Missions Accessibility (HMA) infrastructure of the European Space Agency. And for ESA Keystone is the basis for delivering future advanced browse services within the ESA User Services.

Entering the new decade, Spacemetric is well equipped to help both large and small organisations meet their image management challenges. Now available as version 2.1, the Keystone system is a highly scalable enterprise-class solution for any geospatial imagery. Integration with other systems is through open standards and the Keystone API, while an advanced client, the Keystone Console, provides an effective route to exploit the Keystone system’s capabilities. The Keystone Console uses a plugin architecture based upon Eclipse and NASA’s World Wind SDK, and it is an open source project. Several of Spacemetric’s customers are adapting and extending this client to their specific needs. With 2010 marking the start of Spacemetric’s second decade, it is clear that there will continue to be a growing demand for the image management systems that help keep their customers’ heads above water.

Spacemetric AB
Tingsvägen 17
191 61 Sollentuna
Tel. +46 8 594 770 80
Fax +46 8 594 770 89
Spacemetric Ltd
The Hub, Suite 3A
Fowler Avenue
Farnborough GU14 7JP
United Kingdom
Tel. +44 207 100 3606

Eomag!20_Spacemetric (Sweden) (Winter 2009-2010).pdf