GOCE launch success

It appears all has gone well with the launch of ESA’s GOCE satellite. Following a days delay, the satellite is now in orbit and it appears they have good communications with it.

Follow more here or the ESA twitter feed actually gives good updates on progress.


GOCE launch day

UPDATE#2 – Looks like they will try again today. Same time, same place, fixed launch pad.

UPDATE – Launch delayed 7 seconds from take-off – more news from ESA soon hopefully.

GOCE, the first of three ESA Earth Explorer missions in 2009, launches today. ESA have gone multimedia crazy and you can follow progress on the website here, on twitter here, on flickr here and on YouTube here. Let’s hope they put as much effort into checking the rocket.

Fingers crossed for a sucessful launch. L-3 is at 15:18 CET (14:18 GMT).

Some background info below (once you get past the excessive footage of Italians enjoying the sunshine, the second half is actually useful).

Candidates for next ESA mission reduced to three

ESA have recently passed the next stage in selecting the next in the line of Earth Explorer missions. This process will choose the next satellite to continue the series which so far includes CryoSat-2, SMOS, GOCE, Swarm, ADM-Aeolus & EarthCARE.



The shortlist has now been reduced from six to three. The candidate missions are briefly outlined below. Follow the links for more information.

BIOMASS – aims to measure the distribution and temporal changes of forest biomass at a global scale. Note a secondary objective of this mission is measurement of ice thickness.

CoReH2O – aims to measure fresh water stored in snow on land surfaces and in snow accumulation on glaciers and ice sheets.

PREMIER – aims to quantify processes controlling global atmospheric composition in the mid- to upper-troposphere and lower stratosphere.

To give you some idea of the timescales involved in planning satellite missions, whichever mission is finally selected the launch is anticipated in 2016.

National Centre for Earth Observation

The new National Centre for Earth Observation is getting up to speed and have recently launched their new website.



The official launch will be on March 4th 2009 at the Royal Institution. Full details are here.

The launch will be followed by an evening lecture at the Royal Society entitled “Watching the Earth from Space”. Full details and registration are here.

Google Earth 5

Again slightly off-topic, but I could justify its relevance if challenged. The latest release of Google Earth is now available and has two or more things of great interest.

Aside from those of you interested in looking at Mars imagery, we now have both historical imagery and the long awaited for Google Ocean.

Firstly, historical imagery. In essence every single historical imagery update since the start of Keyhole Earth/Google Earth is now available, and also satellite and aerial imagery going all the way back to 1940. This makes for some interesting viewing over the Antarctic. Some of the changes in Peninsula ice shelves extent are well done, others need a bit of work.



The good news is Google have been proactive in asking for any other historical imagery and air photography that we have available to add to this collection. So there may be some gaps currently, but hopefully this will improve.

Secondly is the eagerly anticipated Google Ocean. The updated bathymetry is visible below, but now you are able to dive below the surface although I admit the navigation takes a bit of getting used to to and is easier with a 3d mouse. A bit of time is needed to see what else is included in Google Ocean and how much use it might be to visualise various data. Ideally we can automate the addition of 3d objects, profiles etc. We’ll let you know.



As ever, Stefan Geens at Ogleearth has more informed comment here and here. The second article highlights some Antarctic material provided by NSF and Census of Marine Life.

Training opportunity

Quick mention of a training opportunity in early April at University of Edinburgh.

Ian Woodhouse of the School of GeoSciences is running a 4-day course on radar remote sensing focusing on the role of airborne and satellite imaging radar systems and their application to monitoring aspects of the Earth’s surface, including snow and ice, oceanic wind fields, agriculture and forestry. More information here.

ESA aiming to go from zero to three in 2009

As in Earth Explorer missions.

A significant delivery from the ESA subscription which the UK (through NERC) contributes to is the Earth Explorer programme, which are the science and research element of ESA’s EO satellites.

The first such mission was supposed to be Cryosat. Despite its early demise its worth has not diminished and Cryosat-2 is planned for launch in autumn this year. More info here.



Before that ESA’s gravity mission GOCE (Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer) is scheduled for launch in March. More information here.



Following that is SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), due for launch in July. More information here.



I’ll post more detail on these later, but in the meantime eoportal has more here.