Satellites drive space industry's appeal to business
By Irene Klotz FARNBOROUGH, England |
By Irene Klotz FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - A European science satellite originally launched to monitor sea ice may tap into a burgeoning commercial interest in the Arctic, a sign of growing demand for the paraphernalia of the space industry from business.
Launched in 2010, the European Space Agency's spacecraft CryoSat uses radar to measure the thickness of polar sea ice and to monitor changes in ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland. But, as the environment changes, climate scientists are far from the only ones interested in the data.
The Arctic is believed to hold 15-20 percent of the world's oil and gas reserves, making CryoSat data a hot commodity for mineral mining, Volker Liebig, director of the ESA's Earth Observation Program, said at the Farnborough Airshow on Thursday.
"Mineral mining in the Arctic has already started. Fishery is picking up. Tourism is looking up, and the sea routes from the European markets to Asia are much shorter via the Northwest Passage," said Liebig, referring to a shipping route running along the Russian Arctic coast.
"The first cargo ships have already arrived, guided by ESA radar satellites, through the ice and the route should improve every year now," Liebig added.
Marketing science data for commercial purposes is a cornerstone of a newly created satellite applications centre in Britain, which has set a goal of capturing 10 percent of a global space market projected to be worth 400 billion pounds ($616 billion) by 2030.
Other commercial spin-offs from science satellites include weather forecasting and carbon capture and storage monitoring, a proposed mitigation for global warming.
A U.S. Space Foundation report released in April showed a 12 percent growth in the worldwide space industry in 2011, with the commercial sector accounting for most of the increase.
Pushing the industry, now valued at $290 billion, is consumer demand for services supplied from satellites, such as the GPS navigation network and direct-to-home television.
"What is the next thing that is going to be on everyone's smart phone? That is the sort of thing that we need to be going for," said Richard Peckham, chairman of UKspace and business development director for Astrium, an EADS subsidiary.
(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)
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