- On 14 December, at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Creotech Instruments S.A. put pen to paper on a contract with the European Space Agency for the construction of an advanced database center, which is to provide access services to, among others, data obtained by the satellites of the Sentinel constellation, as well as other data obtained under the Copernicus program.
- The contract is worth nearly PLN 60m, making it the largest deal ever signed by a Polish space tech company.
- The contract will see Creotech Instruments S.A. carry out a project called EO DIAS.
- According to the project’s assumptions, the infrastructure built by Creotech Instruments S.A. will be one of four competitive centers under construction as part of the Copernicus Data and Information Access Service (CDIAS) project.
- Each such center will store all current and historical data collected as part of the Copernicus program and give users access to the computing power offered by the integrated cloud solution.
- The CDIAS project is the European Union’s response to inflexible infrastructure limiting access to current and historical data and the limited number of services offered by entities relying on the program’s data.
- In line with the EU’s policy, access to data from the Sentinel Earth observation satellite constellation and other data obtained under the Copernicus program will be open and free of charge. This policy aims to stimulate the development of satellite data-based services.
On the brink of a revolution
The development of satellite technologies has changed the face of the economy in at least three areas. It revolutionized communication as now anyone can connect with people on the other side of the globe in mere seconds, have a stable video call or send a message to hundreds of employees scattered around the world with just one click. In this respect, satellites give us reliable and immediate communication.
The availability and universality of GPS had an enormous impact on the transport industry and the lives of the hundreds of millions of drivers who use it every day. Similar systems are being developed for the purposes of maritime and air shipping. Satellites thus had a profound effect on navigation.
“The rise in the availability and universality of free satellite data, combined with the progressive miniaturization of space electronics and the deepening of the New Space trend, heralds a third satellite revolution, which will be related to the data provided by satellites, the volume of which is consistently growing. In the past, it was available only to states,” said Grzegorz Brona, PhD, President of the Management Board Creotech Instruments S.A. “Now it is open to businesses that are full of ideas on how to commercialize them.
EU bets on openness
Until recently, satellite Earth observation data was made available for a fee and was sourced from massive satellites belonging to large companies or states, leaders of the space race. A breakthrough came in 2014 with the launch and commissioning of the first Sentinel satellites, which are part of the European Earth observation system built under the Copernicus Program.
The European Union, which, together with the European Space Agency and the member states of these organizations, provides funding for the Copernicus Program, has from the very start been guided by the idea of making satellite data available to all users free of charge for private, scientific and commercial purposes. This policy aims to stimulate the development of satellite data-based services.
Since then, the subsequent satellites of the target Sentinel constellation have been successively built and placed in orbit to collect data. According to current projections, once all Sentinel satellites of the target constellation come online, their data output will reach 10 petabytes per year.
PWC’s calculations included in the report on the market potential of the Copernicus system commissioned by the European Commission show that the European market for access to satellite data and its processing will grow at a rapid pace. Worth EUR 600m in 2015, it is expected to expand to EUR 1.2bn by 2020, i.e. double in size in the span of just 5 years. The Copernicus program will be a major driver of this growth.
“The program’s one significant bottleneck is its inflexible infrastructure hindering access to current and historical data, and the limited number of services offered by entities based on data from the program,” explained Grzegorz Brona.“These issues were raised in the Recommendations of the European Commission in May 2016, and the resolution of the European Parliament adopted in June of the same year. Efforts designed to expand the possibilities of using satellite data were also defined as one of the priorities of the European Space Strategy adopted in October 2016,” added Brona.
With a view to improve the availability of satellite data, the European Commission and the European Space Agency launched the Copernicus Data and Information Access Service (CDIAS) project. CDIAS seeks to build four database centers in Europe, providing access services to satellite data of the Sentinel constellation and other data obtained under the Copernicus program.
Each center will store all current and historical data and offer users access to the computing power offered by the integrated cloud solution. Thanks to this, European companies will be able to offer their services without having to make substantial investments in their own infrastructure.
The contract was awarded in the second half of 2017. The underlying agreements were signed on 14 December 2017 at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels with the participation of officials from ESA and the European Commission. Four consortia were selected, with one being led by Poland’s Creotech Instruments S.A.
“We are delighted to have won the competition organized by the European Commission and the European Space Agency,” emphasized Grzegorz Brona. “What adds to our satisfaction is that we lead the only consortium entirely composed of small and medium-sized enterprises, most of which are based in Poland. This serves as living proof that our country is quickly closing its technological lag and that the distribution and processing of satellite data may soon become a Polish specialty on a global scale.”
Valued close to PLN 60m, the contract will run for four years, with the system becoming fully operational after the first six months. Once fully developed, it will be able to serve tens of thousands of users worldwide. The consortium of the Creotech Instruments S.A.-led EO DIAS project comprises CloudFerro Sp. z o. o., Geomatys, Outsourcing Partner, Sinergise and the Wrocław Institute for Applications of Spatial Information and Artificial Intelligence (WIZIPISI).
Competing DIAS platforms, developed in parallel with the one under development by Creotech Instruments S.A. and its partners, will be created by: Serco with OVH as the supplier of the cloud solution, ATOS Integration with T-SYSTEM International as the supplier of the cloud solution and Airbus Defense and Space with Orange as the supplier of the cloud solution.
Largest contract and what comes with it?
“This contract is the largest ever signed by a Polish space tech company. We successfully demonstrated that hard work will bring you a long way in this industry, at least when it comes to processing satellite data. Now it’s time to take the next step. It’s time to concentrate on the upstream space market, i.e. the production of the satellites themselves. This is much more challenging in terms of both business and technology, but nevertheless within our reach,” assured Grzegorz Brona.
In late November, Creotech Instruments S.A. signed a contract with the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR) to construct a Polish satellite platform for future small space missions.
Additional information about the Copernicus program:
Copernicus program: http://www.copernicus.eu/
EC DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs (DG Grow): http://ec.europa.eu/growth/