GMES and Africa eStations: Space for Research and Environment

Republished from GMES and Africa

The “GMES and Africa” program will have installed twelve stations for receiving and processing data and Earth observation products (eStations) at as many beneficiary institutions and eleven African countries by the end of 2021. In a post published on November 29, the installation team looks back on their intervention in Morocco.

Two Moroccan institutions are among the beneficiaries of these eStations in the 12 projects on the continent: The Chouaib Doukkali University (UCD) and the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology in French Language (CRASTE-LF).

The beneficiaries are prominent institutions involved in preserving natural resources, water management, and coastal and seabed monitoring. Their activities are particularly in North Africa, in Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. It also extends to South Africa, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

The eStations are tools performing according to their research themes. They involve issues on monitoring, sustainable management and safeguarding of natural resources. The Geo-Information branch of Telespazio France is responsible for acquiring hardware and software components. They also integrate/assemble the components into an eStation, delivering the eStations to the beneficiaries, and training the operators.

The origins

The European Union launched the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) in 1998. In the early 2000s, GMES underwent rechristening to “Copernicus”. The European Commission in partnership with the ESA (European Space Agency) and the EEA (European Environment Agency) programme is coordinating the programme.

Copernicus aims to optimize collecting and restituting continuously up-to-date data on various issues. They include the state of the Earth and its environmental, maritime safety, meteorological, climatic, land management and monitoring issues. Within 23 years, the EUR 6.87 billion (USD 7.8 billion) invested in a network of Earth observation satellites has enabled better coordination and data usage. In addition, it has also increased coverage, improved quality and diversification of sources.

In 2007, the African and European Commission agreed to deploy Copernicus on the African continent under the name “GMES and Africa”. The programme subsequently launched in 2017 and is the continuation of GMES and Africa’s precursors. The precursors include PUMA 2001-2005, AMESD 2007-2013, MESA 2013-2017. These programmes represent a long-standing collaboration between Africa and Europe in space and scientific technologies.

After 20 years, the collaboration will have installed over 250 PUMA and MESA/GMES stations. Furthermore, it would have seen thousands of people receive training on data and products from these stations.

The deployment of eStations by Telespazio France

Telespazio is a global reference player in many sectors including design, deployment, installation and maintaining space and ground systems. They also render telecommunications services, management of launch services and control of satellites in orbit. In addition, Telespazio France also offers EO services, navigation, satellite tracking, scientific programs. Consequently, in December 2020, Telespazio France won a contract from the AUC to install 12 MESA/GMES eStations in Africa.

The eStations: their assets and specificities

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) developed the Stations in 2009, and they house a complex EO data processing system. They comprise hardware and software components, a satellite antenna and three computers. The computers are in connection with an EO data and products server. These data and products are meteorological and environmental and are crucial for sustainable development. Furthermore, they come from EUMETCast, a streaming multicast service carrying a near-real-time data stream with a guaranteed time delay. They are then broadcast in C-band via the Eutelsat W8B satellite or via the Internet.

Their unique functionalities enable the eStation to allow their reception/acquisition, processing, visualization, and automatic analysis. Furthermore, a personalised web system allows users to modify environmental indicators and to enter new ones. The analyses offered by the eStations are usable for environmental development projects and programs and for new ambitions.

Since MESA, the designers of the eStation also offer a “light” version, which can be installed on a simple internet-enabled desktop or laptop. It is a “server” version that can offer these analysis functionalities to a group of computers connected to a network.


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