Space & Security

The entire world is facing challenges that are more diverse and less predictable than before. Areas like urbanization, social movements, political instability and even climate change are challenging the current international state of play in the Security domain. This highly dynamic geopolitical situation raises Security issues all around the world, forcing decision makers to take suitable actions to respond in due time to complex situations. International initiatives – including the United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework – are working towards a more sustainable future, with clear targets defined including peace and wellbeing of the population.


To support these targets from a Security perspective, Earth Observation (EO) is a recognized key asset that provides relevant and trustable information for the decision-making process. In particular, space-based EO is an outstanding means to support these initiatives at global level.


In recent years, the Copernicus Programme has put into orbit a series of Sentinel satellites that provide periodically different types of remote sensing data as open access and free of charge resources. This opens the door to a wide range of new applications and solutions to increase the Earth monitoring capabilities but, at the same time, it requires a change of paradigm for image analysts, who cannot go through all the available images in detail in a realistic time.


The Space and Security innovation pilot focuses on the automatic identification of relevant changes in pairs of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 images along time.

Two main challenges were faced along the project:

1) To develop the processing chain following a cloud-native approach, so they can be deployed in different (cloud) infrastructures;

2) To advance in the pilot implementation and deployment at the same time as the EO market has evolved at its fastest pace, forcing NextGEOSS team to steer the project towards the state-of-the-art of EO platforms and services.

Defense & Security | Security, Defence & Military| Humanitarian Operations| Emergency & Social Protection | Infrastructure & Transport | Constructions

Security & Safety | Monitor Critical Assets, Monitor Borders, Monitor Health

Built-environments | Monitor infrastructures, Monitor built-environment

Disasters & Geohazards | Assess disasters & geohazards (floods)


Data sets


Data collections


Community portals



The solution

The solution

The NextGEOSS Data Hub and Platform provide an integrated ecosystem with the necessary data and ICT resources, seamlessly connected supporting SatCen to deploy and upscale its Earth observation based applications and services.


Service Layer Description

The main ambition in the Space and Security domain is to ensure the well being and security of societies and citizens by exploiting suitable space assets. Established this objective, experts in Earth Observation and imagery analysis work together at SatCen to ensure that the provided geospatial intelligence products and services comply with the highest quality level to support informed decision-making in the security domain.


The SatCen RTDI Unit, through its participation in the NextGEOSS Project has focused on supporting SatCen improvement of capabilities in three key areas:


  • The design and development of Earth Observation processing algorithms to detect changes in pairs of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 images that help to characterize changes occurring on the Earth’s surface, maximizing the opportunities offered by these data sources
  • The implementation of the algorithms with several degrees of automatization to allow the launch of the monitoring tasks and the automatic generation of the change maps, within a pre-defined or continuous period of time
  • The assessment of the benefits of working in Cloud infrastructures to deploy, test and upscale Earth Observation processing services and to access and catalogue results


Thanks to NextGEOSS, SatCen has assessed different solutions to improve its capabilities along the whole EO data lifecycle, facilitating the way relevant data is discovered, allowing the implementation of cloud-native EO applications and enabling the upscaling of the services to cost-effective and scalable shared resources in cloud infrastructures.


NextGEOSS also enabled new features such as the possibility of running IT operations to monitor the performance of the applications and reacting early in case of system downtimes or excessive stress.


NextGEOSS development process


IT needs

The RTDI unit of SatCen looks at enhancing each and all the stages of the data lifecycle. Our first need was to have the capabilities to process and store large amounts of data in a cost-effective approach (i.e. avoiding a large investment in infrastructure and software licenses). Considering the periodic availability of Sentinel images and that the areas under analysis as well as the monitoring intervals over an area of interest varies from days to months, it was also important to have the possibility to trigger manually and automatically the applications when a new image is available.


A second need was to have an environment to foster cooperation with partners in the Space and Security domain. Due to the intrinsic nature of security-related scenarios in a fully interconnected world, it is necessary to look for synergies and cooperate with experts in different domains such as climate, demographics, water, agriculture, etc. in order to respond to diverse issues such as:


  • Climate change, where changes in climate patterns can introduce major risks, specially in certain regions;
  • Pandemics, forcing governments to take measures affecting daily life of citizens;
  • Food security & water security, where scarcity, limitations to access or poor quality can lead to conflicts;
  • Environmental issues, where extreme weather events can lead to forced population displacements;
  • Air pollution, where high levels of contaminants in the atmosphere can create health issues.



Development process description

The NextGEOSS Data Hub and Platform provide an integrated ecosystem with the necessary data and ICT resources, seamlessly connected supporting SatCen to deploy and upscale its Earth observation based applications and services.


The project has been a key asset in SatCen research and innovation activities, providing an overall vision of the change of paradigm within the EO data lifecycle, shifting from the traditional “bring the data to the user” (user download data to a local machine or data store) to “bring the user to the data” (exploitation is shifted to hosted environments where computing power, storage  and services coexist). Along the last 4 years, NextGEOSS has been offering the opportunity to implement and validate these new approaches through the Space and Security pilot. 


From the initial days, NextGEOSS contributed to the understanding of the benefits and difficulties of the new technologies such as cloud distributed storage and processing resources, to move from the traditional EO data management architecture, to a new approach maximizing the efficiency in the use of hardware resources and minimizing the required user investment in infrastructure. The outcomes of NextGEOSS have allowed SatCen to evaluate different technologies along the EO data value chain and to provide inputs for future roadmap of activities.


Through the Space & Security Pilot, NextGEOSS has supported SatCen in the implementation and deployment of two cloud-native applications to automatically detect changes on Earth’s surface using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data, which is discovered through the NextGEOSS Catalogue and Data Discovery service.


NextGEOSS Cloud Integration service has provided SatCen the tools to integrate, test and validate the two data processing services in an interactive way (through Jupyter Notebooks as well as using a configurable User Interface based on Ellip Solution), as well as to benefit from CI/CD workflows facilitating application versioning and release management. Furthermore, NextGEOSS Cloud Bursting has enabled SatCen application to be scaled up for automatic processing when needed, allowing SatCen to maximize the efficiency in the use of hardware resources and minimizing the required user investment in infrastructure. Additionally, performance of the Pilots can be monitored by SatCen through the Analytics and Dashboard Services.


Furthermore, the results generated through the Pilot, as well as other datasets generated in other projects such as H2020-BETTER or internally generated at SatCen have been made available to the Space and Security Community through the NextGEOSS Data Hub. The enhanced visibility obtained by those datasets is a very useful way for sharing and disseminating those data and results in view of looking for synergies and complementarities with other communities.


Finally, having the opportunity to co-design the solutions with the NextGEOSS team and share experiences on managing EO data and services will feed the future RTDI roadmap and activities.


NextGEOSS is the first step to make available a key operational Earth Observation service of benefit for European users and decision-makers.


What are our users saying about the NextGEOSS user experience?

“NextGEOSS contributed to the understanding of the benefits and difficulties of the new technologies such as Cloud distributed storage and processing resources, to move from the traditional EO data management architecture, to a new approach maximizing the efficiency in the use of hardware resources and minimizing the required user investment in infrastructure.”


“Through the Space & Security Pilot, SatCen RTDI unit implemented two processing pipelines to automatically detect changes in Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 images, and deployed them in different Cloud infrastructures. This has provided key insights and know-how for future operational developments.”


“NextGEOSS’ data discovery and cataloguing service is a very powerful solution for storing, cataloguing and sharing generated results, as SatCen is currently doing with datasets relevant to the the partners of the GEO Space and Security Community Activity.”


Dr Paula Saameno talks about her experience using NextGEOSS


European Union Satellite Centre

The European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) is an Agency of the Council of the European Union (EU) working under the supervision of the Political and Security Committee and the operational direction of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.


SatCen supports the decision making and actions of the EU in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), by providing products and services resulting from the exploitation of relevant space assets and collateral data, including satellite imagery and aerial imagery, and related services.


Therefore, SatCen is a key institution linking Space and Security, and a primary user of Earth Observation (EO) satellite data with great expertise on creating, managing and disseminating products derived by the exploitation of satellite imagery and collateral sources.


SatCen cooperates with international organisations acting in the Space and Security domains, including the European Space Agency, the European Commission, the European Defence Agency and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), where SatCen leads the Space and Security community activity.


The institutional ecosystem of which SatCen takes part facilitates the exchange of needs and know-how within relevant stakeholders, providing the Centre with a unique capability to collect user requirements, to implement use cases and user scenarios, to validate the developed solutions and to foster the subsequent user uptake, supporting as well sustainability of the results obtained.



SatCen has benefited from NextGEOSS in several aspects.


-   As an overall benefit, NextGEOSS project has been key to facilitate the access to and the use and assessment of new technologies in the EO domain fostering innovation within SatCen.


-   It has demonstrated that applications can be deployed in different cloud infrastructures with a limited effort investment, thus providing a proof-of-concept for future service deployments;


-   Through the Data Hub, the access to EO data has been improved;


-   The change detection applications developed, using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 and NextGEOSS infrastructure, provide the means to facilitate the work of image analysts, detecting relevant spatio-temporal changes so that the focus of the analyses is directly put on the spot;


AND/OR benefits from the next user level:


-   It has served to assess a new collaborative approach to work with EO data, in which results or input datasets are catalogued in the Data Hub and made available to relevant partners, simplifying the sharing limitations when dealing with large amounts of data with some access security requirements;


-   Reduction of overall cost of future services requiring intense processing of EO data.

NextGEOSS security benefits


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