In April 2014, the contest of the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) “Fundamental research and exploratory studies conducted by a scientific organisation and a higher education institution within newly established common laboratories” has been announced. According to the terms of the contest, the projects participated in the contest are aimed at establishing the Russian scientific laboratories cooperating with scientific and higher education institutions.

The contest winners announced are 38 new laboratories in four scientific priorities:

  • personalized medicine socially important human diseases
  • complex scientific research of the Arctic region
  • complex scientific research for improving the human environment
  • brain and neuroscience.

One of the winners in the priority area “Complex scientific research for improving the human environment” was Samara State Aerospace University introduced the project “Establishing the laboratory of advanced technologies for Earth remote sensing.”

The project is aimed at solving relevant scientific and social problems of obtaining and using Earth remote sensing (ERS) data in intelligent geographic information systems.

 A key feature of the project is working with ERS data obtained within a wide spectral wavelength range by means of optical, hyperspectral and radar sensors. This data contains a huge amount of information necessary to monitor and study changes in the natural environment and economic activities under the influence of natural and anthropogenic factors, natural resource monitoring, engineering and transport infrastructure, prevention, evaluation and mitigation of emergencies, improve management of economic and social processes aimed at improving the quality of life of the population. Using the ERS data is one of the factors in the development of the world economy. Development, launch and operation of space vehicles for ERS are actively conducted in all industrialised countries. Now there are more than 100 orbit space vehicles in the segment of medium and high spatial resolution. According to the Euroconsult company, the total number of remote sensing satellites will double by 2018. According to the Federal Space Agency, over 28 Russian ERS satellites will be sent to orbit by 2025. Taking into account the active space activities of leading Russian universities and large corporations, the number of Russian ERS satellites can be even greater. Currently, there is a huge amount of ERS data, which is accumulated and being actively gathered, obtained in Russia using more than 100 ground stations receiving information from domestic and foreign ERS satellites: a network of universities’ receiving stations, all-Russian network of stations receiving data from meteorological satellites, a network of commercial stations receiving data from foreign satellites; moreover, Roscosmos’ network of receiving stations is being deployed Roscosmos (the unified geographically distributed information system for Earth remote sensing). The Progress State Research and Production Space Centre (Samara) has been providing ERS data receiving since 1962. An outstanding achievement of the centre is the satellite Resurs-P launched in 2013, which allows to obtain hyperspectral data in the optical and near-infrared wavelength range. However, the enlarging of the satellite cluster and simple accumulation of data do not automatically solve the key problem of more efficient use of ERS data in the innovation economy, environmental management, and improving the quality of life. The activity of the proposed laboratory will aim to address this challenge.

Prerequisites for this project are found in a team of highly skilled professionals and unique research and engineering expertise of Samara State Aerospace University and the Image Processing Systems Institute (IPSI) of the RAS.  SSAU has 30 years of experience in training highly skilled professionals of the world level in the field of Earth remote sensing and geographical information technology. SSAU and the IPSI collaborating with the State Research and Production Space Centre “Progress” are designing and manufacturing a series of small space vehicles for ERS equipped with hyperspectral hardware. To date, a fleet of two microsats AIST have been orbiting the Earth. Microsats require compact and light-weight imaging hyperspectrometers operating in the optical and IR ranges. The design of such spectrometers is based on achievements in nanophotonics. Fundamental world-level research results in this area have been achieved by IPSI RAS. Over 5 years, the SSAU operates two centres “Nanophotonics and Diffractive Optics” and “Space Geographical Information” offering collective use of unique items of equipment designed with participation of IPSI RAS. A unique experience in the use of ERS data has been accumulated by Povolzhsky Centre of Space Geoinformatics, which was jointly established in 2006 by the Samara Region government, SSAU, IPSI RAS, and the Progress centre with participation of a number of small IT-businesses.

The proposed laboratory’s activity aims at solving the following research and development problems:

Problem 1. Compression, coding, and protection of ERS data in distributed geographical information systems.

Problem 2. Complex thematic analysis and interpretation of optical, hyperspectral, and radar ERS data.

Problem 3. Acquisition, transmission, distributed storage and processing of ERS data, GRID-algorithms, creation of intelligent databanks and metadatabanks, Big Data processing.

Problem 4. Use of the ERS data in geographical information applications for analysis and prognostication of the state of natural and urban environment, management of the information society and natural resources.

Problem 5. Design and manufacture of a compact light-weight wide-range space-borne hyperspectral unit with unsurpassed technical characteristics for the ERS microsatellites.

The joint effort of a team of highly skilled professionals including mathematicians, physicists, chemists, nanotechnology and IT-specialists in solving the above-mentioned problems within the proposed laboratory will produce a synergetic effect and provide new scientific results and a technological breakthrough in the use of ERS data in innovation economy, also having social impact and improving the quality of life.