Our natural environment is increasingly under human pressure. A growing global population fuels the need for food, natural resources and land. Ecosystems are under threat and the climate is changing rapidly.
Vegetation represents an important natural resource and has a crucial influence on the water cycle and the climate. Mapping and monitoring of the vegetative land cover therefore helps to better understand the environment and is a key element for the sustainable management of our planet's natural resources. Remote sensing by satellites is an essential tool to provide our decision makers and businesses with reliable, frequent and up-to-date information for that purpose.
The need to create and maintain a capacity to adequately observe the Earth system has been recognised by various countries and international organisations. The GEO (Group on Earth Observations) initiative is a clear manifestation of the desire by the international community to secure a permanent and long term watch over the resources and environment of the Earth. The EU has taken a similar approach in the development of its space programme notably via the GMES/Copernicus initiative (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).
For 15 years, the VEGETATION programme has played an important role in meeting the need for information on our planet. It has been offering the international community reliable data from a truly operational, global Earth Observing System, which acquires data of the entire terrestrial surface on a daily basis.
First and foremost, the VEGETATION programme has been catering for the needs of operational users - both institutional and commercial - requesting data in near-real time. Over the years more than 50.000 Gigapixels of data have been distributed to 14.000 users. As such, the VEGETATION mission is a prime example of what Europe can achieve through the GMES/Copernicus initiative: truly operational services providing reliable and up-to-date information.
The scientific community, however, was not left out. From 2001 on, archived data could be downloaded for free fueling many international research projects and resulting in an avalanche of scientific publications.
VEGETATION’s centralized archive houses processed data covering the equivalent of 11.000- times the Earth’s surface, providing a unique time series of the state of the Earth’s vegetation.
VEGETATION is now nearing the end of its life cycle. The new PROBA-V mission takes over the delivery of data to its users and thus will bridge the gap between the VEGETATION and SENTINEL-3 missions. PROBA-V is an innovative microsatellite build by Belgian companies under the authority of ESA. In addition to products similar to the existing 1km VEGETATION data, products with a spatial resolution of 1/3km (2/3kmfor SWIR) will be generated. PROBA-V has been launched successfully on May 6, 2013 and is currently in commissioning phase. Nominal operations are expected to start in Nov 2013.