Title: Who launched what, when and why; trends in Global Land-Cover observation capacity from civilian earth observation satellites
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC89322
ISSN: 0924-2716
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924271614000720
DOI: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2014.03.009
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: This paper presents a compendium of satellites under civilian and/or commercial control with the potential to gather global land-cover observations. From this we show that a growing number of sovereign states are acquiring capacity for space based land-cover observations and show how geopolitical patterns of ownership are changing. We discuss how the number of satellites flying at any time has progressed as a function of increased launch rates and mission longevity, and how the spatial resolutions of the data they collect has evolved. The first such satellite was launched by the USA in 1972. Since then government and/or private entities in 33 other sovereign states and geopolitical groups have chosen to finance such missions and 197 individual satellites with a global land-cover observing capacity have been successfully launched. Of these 98 were still operating at the end of 2013. Since the 1970s the number of such missions failing within three years of launch has dropped from around 60% to less than 20%, the average operational life of a mission has almost tripled, increasing from 3.3 years in the 1970s to 8.6 years (and still lengthening), the average number of satellites launched per-year/per-decade has increased from 2 to 12 and spatial resolution increased from around 80 meters to less than one meter multispectral and less than half a meter for panchromatic; synthetic aperture radar resolution has also fallen, from 25 meters in the 1970s to 1 meter post 2007. More people in more countries have access to data from global land-cover observing spaceborne missions at a greater range of spatial resolutions than ever before. We provide a compendium of such missions, analyse the changes and shows how innovation, the need for secure data-supply, national pride, falling costs and technological advances may underpin the trends we document.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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