Another Step Towards Real-time Space Imaging


Near-real time SAR image captured by Sentinel-1A off the coast of Brazil, downlinked to the ground in mere seconds, and processed to image form in just 13 seconds. Image credit: ESA / DLR.

The era of near real-time and real-time optical and radar space imaging is drawing closer and closer. A big step forward in this direction was taken recently by an ESA experiment of a SAR image taken by Setinel-1A, then communicated to an optical communication Technology Demonstration Payload onboard Alphasat via laser beam, which then relayed it to the ground station. This data was then processed and converted to “image” form in just 13 minutes.

This experiment is a precursor towards the establishment of the European Data Relay System (EDRS) SpaceDataHighway, which aims to utilize relay communication satellites to transfer data to and from different satellite / aerial platforms to ground stations at very high speeds using laser communication. Detailed information about the EDRS SpaceDataHighway can be accessed here, here, and here.

I think it is just a matter of a few years before near-real time space imaging (accessible within a few minutes of data acquisition) will be commonplace in the civilian / commercial domain. And that will bring along a lot of new applications of satellite imaging to the fore. Exciting times ahead!


A schematic description of the EDRS SpaceDataHighway. Image credit: ESA.

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About WQ

I received my PhD (2013) in Remote Sensing, Earth and Space Science at the Dept. of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, under a Fulbright fellowship. Currently, I'm an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Space Science at Institute of Space Technology (IST), Islamabad, Pakistan, where I have been a founding member of the Geospatial Research & Education Lab (GREL). My general expertise is in Remote Sensing where I have worked with various remote sensing datasets through my career, while for my PhD thesis I specifically worked on Remote Sensing using SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and Oceanography, working extensively on development of techniques to measure ocean surface currents from space-borne SAR intensity images and interferometric data. My research interests are: Remote sensing, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery and interferometric data processing & analysis, Visible/Infrared/High-resolution satellite image processing & analysis, Oceanography, Earth system study and modelling, LIDAR data processing and analysis, Scientific programming. I am a reviewer for IEEE Transactions on Geoscience & Remote Sensing, Forest Ecosystems, GIScience & Remote Sensing, Journal of African Earth Sciences, and Italian Journal of Agronomy. I am an alumnus of Pakistan National Physics Talent Contest (NPTC), an alumnus of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, a Fulbright alumnus, and the Pakistan National Point of Contact for Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC). I was an invited speaker at the TEDxIslamabad event held in Nov., 2014. I've served as mentor in the NASA International Space App Challenge Islamabad events in April 2015 and April 2016.

3 thoughts on “Another Step Towards Real-time Space Imaging

  1. Pingback: Iceye Planning to Launch Micro-SAR Constellation | EarthEnable

  2. Pingback: Another Step Towards <>Space Imaging !!!! – divyanshspacetech

  3. Pingback: Imagery Downlinked from Satellite to Ground in 6 Minutes | EarthEnable

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