Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space around the world

In the polar regions, the equatorial rainforest, out on the bounding main, and right there in our backyard

 On thin ice  On the forest trail  On the farm  On the ocean wave

        On thin ice

     On the forest trail

          On the farm

    On the ocean wave

 

 

 

Space-based technologies provide an essential tool for helping understand our home planet, look after it and harness its benefits in a way that is more efficient, more environmentally friendly and more equitable.

In the most far-flung corners of the planet – the polar regions, the equatorial rainforest, the bounding main – and right there in our backyard, Airbus Defence and Space’s expertise is giving a helping hand for better stewardship of the Earth.


On thin ice

Case study: The future of the ploar ice caps

The shrinking of the polar ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica has been likened to a ticking time bomb that could wreak havoc on human civilisation: substantial quantities of polar melt water pouring into the ocean would cause rising sea levels, provoking massive inundations affecting islands and coastal regions with devastating implications for huge numbers of people. Accelerated change in the oceans would impact on the ocean current circulation patterns which moderate the Earth’s climate, threatening heightened intensity of extreme meteorological events, storms and hurricanes.

Data from Airbus Defence and Space’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) satellites, designed and built for NASA and the German space agency DLR, show that Greenland lost 150–250 km3 of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost around 152 km3 of ice in the period 2002–2005.

Airbus Defence and Space created the ice-mission satellite CryoSat-2 expressly to probe into this supremely important issue more deeply, more effectively and more precisely than ever before – its radar is specifically developed to measure the thickness of the ice (the thitherto missing ‘third dimension’ to the polar data equation), and its unusual orbit allows it to cover much more of these ice-bound regions than has previous been possible.

Case study: The future of the ploar ice caps

 

 


On the forest trail

Case study: Satellites go REDD for the green dealForests cover around 30% of the Earth’s land surface and are a vital factor in the health of our planet’s ecosystem.

Forests act as climate stabilisers, their fallen leaves and seeds replenish the nutrients in the soil; they regulate the water cycle, absorbing and redistributing rainwater. Home to over two thirds of the world’s species of flora and fauna, they display a staggeringly abundant biodiversity, particularly in the case of the tropical forests. And, crucially, they function as ‘carbon sinks’, capturing and stockpiling great quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide through a natural process known as biosequestration. However, in an ironic twist, when these forests are cleared and burnt, all that stored CO2 is released into the atmosphere, contributing as much as one fifth of annual greenhouse gas emissions – more than the world’s entire transport sector.

Combatting deforestation is therefore a major international challenge, embodied in the UN REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) mechanism for incentivising nations to protect and better manage their forests. Airbus Defence and Space is fully committed, with programmes operating in the world’s three main equatorial forest basins: the Amazon, the Congo and South-East Asia.

Case study: Satellites go REDD for the green deal

 

 


On the farm

Case study: Ploughing a better furrowDespite increasing urbanisation, we all depend to a huge extent on agriculture, each and every day. It gives us not only our daily bread, but also the fabric for our clothes, the fruit juice we drink and the carton it comes in, cosmetics to beautify us, medicines and pharmaceuticals to cure us, chemicals and bio-industrial products, and the plant-based bio-fuels on which so much is pinned for a greener future …

Nearly half the active global population – 1.3 billion people – works in the agricultural sector. In the European Union, 45% of the territory is given over to farming.

This year saw the tenth anniversary of Airbus Defence and Space’s FARMSTAR service for precision farming, which harnesses the power of satellites and space technologies to support effective, environmentally sustainable crop management on a personalised basis. FARMSTAR is a huge success in France, the largest agricultural producer in Europe; today, nigh on 10,000 cereal growers have signed up for the service, meaning that around a half a million Gallic hectares are cultivated from space.

Case study: Ploughing a better furrow

 

 


On the ocean wave

Case study: The mystery of the monsters from the deepWith over 70% of its surface composed of seas, our planet, as science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wittily suggested, should rather be called Ocean than Earth.

The mighty Pacific Ocean, which has a greater area than all the landmasses put together, holds just over 50% of all ocean water, the Atlantic nearly a quarter, and the Indian Ocean around 20%. Over 60% of the Earth’s surface is more than a mile underwater!

Small wonder that, with in-situ exploration of such an enormous, remote and often perilous domain no easy matter, before we had access to satellites’ incomparable global perspective, our knowledge of the topography and the physical processes of the oceans was remarkably limited. Now, an array of satellites have changed that, giving us both a wide-angle view and incredibly detailed observations, measuring temperature, ocean colour and marine life evidence, winds, waves, sea height and salinity levels, and charting the floorbeds. All of this information, gathered in a relatively short time, is helping us to comprehend the nature of the ocean realm and its complex and fundamental interrelation with climate and weather systems. We understand that the oceans produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and absorb the most carbon from it – and since humans are generating more and more greenhouse gas emissions, the amount of CO2 sucked in by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about two billion tons per year, pushing up acidity levels. We know that the oceans are warming up, and that global sea level rose by about 17 cm in the last century, the rate nearly doubling alarmingly over the last decade …

Numerous observation satellites made by Airbus Defence and Space have been and are continuing to be absolutely capital in this space-based oceanic investigation, notably the pioneering ERS duo, now retired from service, and the ‘eco-policeman’ Envisat, and more recently the Champ, GRACE, GOCE, SMOS and Swarm missions.

Case study: The mystery of the monsters from the deep

 


 On thin ice  On the forest trail  On the farm  On the ocean wave

        On thin ice

     On the forest trail

          On the farm

    On the ocean wave

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