Space & Security

Space & Security

The main ambition in Space and Security domain is to ensure the wellbeing 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.


In the recent years, the Earth Observation domain is experiencing an unprecedented scenario in terms of data variety, volume, velocity, veracity and value; moreover, datasets to be used for security applications can be composed also by geospatial data coming from other sources. When the volume of data available, and suitable to be analysed, go beyond the threshold of being manually manageable, as it is the case today thanks to Sentinel satellites, it is of utmost importance to have the means and tools to access and process the data, in order to make possible the extraction of relevant information from these large amounts of data and, therefore, facilitate the imagery analysis tasks.


An important value provided by Earth Observation datasets is the possibility to identify certain features or changes on the Earth’s surface at various spatial and temporal scales. Change Detection is a transversal technique supporting the monitoring of urban, built-up and natural environments by identifying relevant changes within areas of interest. This way, this Space and Security Innovation pilot focuses 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


In short, the key challenge faced by the Space and Security pilot is to improve the capacity to access, process and analyse this huge amount of heterogeneous data to provide decision-makers with trustful, timely and useful information, what has been possible through NextGEOSS project. The pilot builds on the results of the activities performed by SatCen in the framework of two Horizon 2020 projects: BigDataEurope (Integrating Big Data, Software & Communities for Addressing Europe’s Societal Challenges) and EVER-EST (European Virtual Environment for Research – Earth Science Themes).

Quick Facts


Space and Security innovation pilot developed two different change detection applications, one using Sentinel-1 and the other using Sentinel-2 images. The pilot allows the user to execute the provided services on specified areas of interest, generally ranging from local to the regional level. Specifically, for the validation and verification of the pilot, SatCen has run the applications in two different areas of interest:


  • The Sentinel-1 Amplitude Change Detection application was successfully tested on Niger, in order to detect changes in urban environments in a mostly desertic region
  • The Sentinel-2 Multispectral Change Detection application was used to monitor the construction of the COVID-19 hospital in the province of Wuhan (China), in view of assessing that the actual construction was done during the period announced


The input data for the Space and Security innovation pilot are Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 imagery, which is systematically harvested by NextGEOSS and made available to SatCen over the specified AoI and time intervals.


  • In the case of Sentinel-1, Level-1 GRD IW (Interferometric Wide Swath) products are used
  • In the case of Sentinel-2, Level-2A products are used


SatCen mission consists on supporting the decision making and actions of the European Union in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including European Union crisis management missions and operations, 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. SatCen research and innovation activities are always looking to provide better services and products to its final users, and this translates into the enhancement of SatCen technological and knowledge extraction capabilities.


One of the main challenges that the imagery analyst face in her/his daily job is to extract relevant information from one or more satellite images, and prepare a report within a limited time. For the analysis, traditionally, specific satellite images from commercial providers are acquired and thoroughly analysed.


The availability of open access data from Sentinel satellites represented a radical new approach in Space, and in particular for the EO downstream segment. Today, there are middle resolution optical and SAR images of any part of the globe every 3-6 days and this, undoubtedly, can enhance the knowledge about the globe and enrich the products generated with relevant information. The new source of data provided by Sentinel satellites is a huge new source of information, but to extract it there is an undeniable need to develop associated technologies and processing algorithms.


In what respect the security-related geospatial analysis, the capacity to process such amount of data is not yet available. A human analyst cannot analyze all the available images looking for relevant changes or information in a reasonable time and here is where the SatCen NextGEOSS pilot comes into play.


The innovation pilot for Space and Security faced the above-described challenges to respond to SatCen needs for processing Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 imagery over certain areas of interest. Thus, the pilot has implemented two different change detection processing chains on NextGEOSS infrastructure and, thus, has benefited from its services to:


  • discover and access Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data
  • process data to generate change detection maps
  • test functionality and performance of Cloud deployed applications
  • exploit datasets


The pilot applications enabled the detection of changes occurring at different temporal and spatial scales, with the possibility of automatic triggering when new data is available on the hub and with automatic cataloguing capabilities.


The first-layer users of the services developed within the Space and Security pilot would be SatCen imagery analysts who, thanks to NextGEOSS could provide a better service in the future to the final users belonging to the Space and Security community.


In the future, NextGEOSS and the applications developed within this pilot could serve as a collaborative framework for players interested in similar topics and results, fostering the engagement and/or enlargement of the user community. Special focus is put on the collaboration within the GEO Space and Security Community Activity.


See more information and join the GEO Space and Security Community Activity here.


The output results are maps with the detected changes highlighted for each pair of images processed.

This provides the capability to automatically detect changes in Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 images within a period and, thus, to put the focus of the analyst on the relevant parts of the image in which changes are detected. This facilitates the tasks of the imagery analysis when loads of images over an area are available.

Pilot resources can be accessed through the following links:



The output results, which are change detection maps, are exposed and catalogued in NextGEOSS Datahub.

Change Detection maps are generated on-demand, batch processing and systematic monitoring and indexed to allow discovery and access.




Earth Observation & Collateral Data for Security