UK to open Earth observation hub

Earth from space The new hub will focus on environmental monitoring

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Science minister David Willetts has announced a new UK centre for monitoring the Earth from space.

The Earth observation hub will focus on acquiring environmental data, such as information on deforestation and the impact of climate change.

The hub will be based at the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) at Harwell in Oxfordshire, which will open in April 2011.

The aim is to bring together UK expertise in Earth observation.

The hub will also be used as a flight operations centre for controlling satellites.

In addition, it will develop the expertise to analyse environmental information coming from space, helping scientists learn more about how the planet is being affected by climate change.

Tracking pollution

Professor Alan O'Neill, director of the National Centre for Earth Observation, said: "By bringing together the best of our space science base with industrial researchers, we hope to develop a wide range of applications.

"These include global monitoring of deforestation, concentration of greenhouse gasses, and levels of marine pollution."

Up to 40 scientists will be based at the centre. Many of them will be involved in gathering and presenting the vast amounts of information coming from environmental satellites.

The data will be made available to scientists across the world and to the public.

Details of the hub were announced by the Science Minister David Willetts in a speech on Wednesday morning at the Farnborough Air Show.

He said that the centre would not become a "centralising force"; rather, it would serve as a hub to link regional space capabilities and promote knowledge-sharing between academia and industry.

Mr Willetts' said in his speech: "ISIC will operate at arm's length from the UK Space Agency so that it becomes a common facility within the Harwell campus.

"And at Harwell, the new European Space Agency facility is already working well, especially in climate change science and related applications.

"Soon it will have an incubator for new space businesses and work on space exploration. This is a fantastic additional catalyst for UK space."

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