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University-based network of Space Monitoring Centers: establishment pre-condition and the outlook

Significant social and economic changes take place nowadays in the modern society. Those changes are first of all connected to rampant development of knowledge-intensive production. The key success factor for establishment of “new economy” is proactive adoption of new ideas, systems and technologies, readiness to promptly realize scientific developments into production. This provides for necessity of constant personnel reeducation and sets out new requirements to levels of specialist training. New requirements arise with regard to the processes of integrating science, education and business.

The center for this integration shall be constituted by Universities. Presently, universities provide grounds for interactive structures (technoparks, business incubators, scientific test sites, consulting organizations), that demonstrate prospects of the trilateral interaction.

In developed countries universities are legally competent subjects of national and regional development per many indices along with government authorities and economic structures.

In Russia, the processes of integrating science, education and business are not developing as rapidly as they are in the west.

This is due to the fact that partners have difficulties in casting away historical stereotypes being a disincentive to innovative activities.

In addition, in recent years the segment of “Innovative” universities has already taken shape, where quite a few technologies and corresponding products were developed utilizing results of scientific research and experimental design works, which can be commercialized even today.

Since the first day of its functioning (1989) the ScanEx Research and Development Center has come to understanding of the need to interact with educational institutions and scientific organizations.

Taking into account that current rampant development and introduction of space-based Earth observation facilities and GIS-technologies requires training of highly professional contemporary specialists, in the past few years ScanEx RDC have supplied UniScan ground stations to over 20 high educational institutions in Russia, Kazakhstan and Spain. Those stations served as basis for creating scientific and educational centers for space monitoring, which now provide training and refresher training of specialists with modern knowledge in Earth remote sensing and geoinformation systems, as well as training on real-time satellite imagery-based technologies supporting decision-making process.

Another activity exercised on the basis of space monitoring centers is implementation of fundamental and applied research on scientific research specializations. In addition a center of this kind ensures maximum efficiency in regular monitoring of local and neighboring regions in near real-time mode and display information received by the station on the geoportal for further analysis and decision-making by economic entities in the area of nature management, agriculture, land-property relations, town-planning practice, road construction, infrastructure building, etc.

Nonetheless, centers of space monitoring already established throughout universities are currently functioning as stand-alone entities, without cooperation with each other. Lack of interaction and exchange of experience between space monitoring centers of the universities discourage their intensive development. In late 2010 ScanEx RDC put forward the idea of creating the university-based network of space monitoring centers. The idea was supported by many higher education institutions, where such space monitoring centered have already been installed (fig. 1): Belgorod State University, Northern Arctic Federal University, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Urals Federal University (fig. 2), Samara State Aerospace University, Siberian Federal University, Kazakh-British Technical University, University of Valencia (Spain), University of Valladolid (Spain), etc.

A seminar “From RS Ground Station to Integration and Network Solution” took place on February 4-11, 2011, participated by representatives from leading Russian universities, federal and regional governmental authorities, business communities and foreign partners from Turkey and France.

The seminar participants noted with satisfaction the increasing role of leading Russian universities in preparations of highly-qualified specialists, in better refresher training of personnel for different economic industries, in development and introduction of domestic technologies and software applications, in creation of geoportal services for conservation of nature, research and monitoring of the environment and industrial processes, commercialization of intellectual activities’ results, etc.

Technology of direct reception of data from Earth observation satellites has been currently used in this way or another in all Federal Districts of the Russian Federation. However, further efficient development of existing university-based network of space monitoring centers requires coordination of their activities in order to resolve current tasks. First of all, those are the issues of working out a joint strategy of development and introduction of technology innovations and methods of Earth remote sensing from space, solution of international legal issues related to remote sensing, optimization of expenses and license costs, entitling reception of data and upgrading of receiving channels, joint participation in international projects and programs, commercialization of remote sensing results.

Operating as stand-alone entities these centers face the need to tackle similar problems. In particular, in Russia the universities have to address to the Russian Federal Space Agency to get licenses for data reception and processing.

The Russian Law on “Space Activities” integrates the data reception and processing. Does the data processing actually have something to do with space activity? Nowadays, organizations, having the technology of data reception from RS satellites, including universities, have to obtain respective licenses. In European countries the legislation in sphere of space activities and operations with remote sensing data is more clear and transparent. However, both Russian and foreign universities have to share experience with each other in remote sensing. This will allow avoiding duplication of work and increasing the efficiency of introducing space technology into scientific and educational process.

Integration of university-based centers of space monitoring will enable to resolve the most important task of access to information resources. In particular, financial expenses of each university can be essentially reduced when acquiring space images. Specialists will then be able to contribute their intellect and energy in scientific, educational and economic solutions based on space images.

The activities to create the university-based network of space monitoring centers are ongoing. Universities from different countries, interested in integration in sphere of space technology, may become a part of it.

More information about the university-based centers of space monitoring, as well as about the practical implementation into scientific and educational process of satellite imagery data can be learnt at the 5th International Conference “Earth from Space – the Most Effective Solutions”, which is to take place in Moscow, Russia from November 28 to December 1, 2011. More details about this coming event are available at the conference website:

Fig. 1. Space monitoring centers installed in Universities
Fig. 2. UniScan antenna system on roof of a building at the Urals Federal University (Yekaterinburg, Russia)

by Marina Sergeeva, ScanEx RDC,