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Beyond SDI – Josef Aschbacher (ESA)

The concept of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) is central to bringing the benefits of space applications, and in particular of Earth Observation (EO), to citizens in Europe and worldwide. However, recent developments call for an evolution of the SDI concept. Such developments include a massive increase in available data, as epitomized by Copernicus – the world’s leading Earth observation programme, which is made in Europe. Copernicus is headed by the European Union. The European Space Agency (ESA) manages the Copernicus space component, including its dedicated Sentinel satellites. Currently, 250 TB of Copernicus data are distributed each day. But data and information provision needs to be complemented by activities that model the impact of the associated processes. Against this backdrop, ESA – together with the European Union and other partners – is pursuing the Gaia-Φ project.

Gaia-Φ is a next generation European EO data facility deploying emerging technologies to provide rapid access data storage and advanced cloud data processing to maintain a land cover digital twin of Planet Earth. It will capitalise on rapidly growing volumes of EO satellite data to enable advanced applications for governments, citizens and commercial users. Its initial design will cater for EO missions in the 2025 to 2030 timeframe, with a perspective to serve users over the next 20 years.

Gaia-Φ will capitalise on emerging technologies to maximise the return on European investment in EO by serving operational and R&D needs now and in the future. The implementation will be flexible to ensure that its services can accommodate advances in technology and understanding.

In making geophysical trends visible, tangible and understandable Gaia-Φ will help the SDI concept to account for the changing boundary conditions of space based Earth observation.