The Contribution of the COSMO-SkyMed Space System in the International Context
Covello, Fabio; Battagliere, Maria Libera; Coletta, Alessandro
Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), ITALY

Since the beginning of 2011 the Italian COSMO-SkyMed constellation is fully operational providing its user community with invaluable information and data in several application domains such as risk and emergency management, multi-temporal acquisition for agriculture monitoring, ship detection, interferometry, landslides monitoring, maritime surveillance, rapid mapping and security. COSMO-SkyMed adequately supports user needs because of its intrinsic characteristics such as world-wide coverage,high frequency of observations (revisit time in the order of few hours) various resolutions and swath width, varying from mid-resolution images of large geographical areas, up to very high resolution images of smaller areas, fast response time high geolocation accuracy.
These characteristics allow ASI to implement very important cooperation with a number of national and international agencies such as Italian Civil Protection, ESA, JAXA, CSA, CONAE and to provide support in different emergency situations.

In the field of both national and international Emergency Management, ASI provided a strong contribution in a large number of cases (e.g. Oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, August 2010; Tohoku Japan earthquake and tsunami, March 2011; Northern Italy earthquake, May 2012).
Among the international cooperation it is worth of mention the intergovernmental agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) signed in 2009 between ASI and JAXA concerning the feasibility study and joint research activities for the mutual cooperation in the satellite disaster monitoring. In this framework a cooperative project was implemented for

  • feasibility study and demonstration on improvement of observation frequency and coordination during emergencies, using COSMO-SkyMed (X Band), ALOS (L Band), COSMO-SkyMed 2nd generation (X Band) and ALOS-2 (L band) satellites;
  • Cooperation in joint SAR research activities related to disaster monitoring.

    This synergic use of X and L band is also reflected in the ongoing cooperation between ASI and CONAE relevant to the integrated system SIASGE composed by COSMO-SkyMed constellation and the two L-band SAOCOM satellites.
    Another significant example of the support activity in the international context provided by the COSMO-SkyMed system is represented by the recent agreement between ASI and ESA concerning the provision of COSMO-SkyMed data as post-Envisat support to ESA. In this context ASI will provide COSMO-SkyMed images to Dragon 3 Programme Pi's.

    The scientific use of the system has been promoted thanks to the activity of CIDOT (Centro Interpretazione Dati di Osservazione della Terra) an ASI center of competence in the field of Earth Observation data processing. In addition to the scientific promotion of the research activities CIDOT successfully managed the COSMO-SkyMed Announcement of Opportunity (AO). After the success of the first edition of COSMO SkyMed AO that ended in 2012, ASI in now starting the process for issuing an ''Open Call'' for innovative projects based on the exploitation of COSMO-SkyMed data addressing both scientific community and industrial community active in the field of R&D.

    Thanks to all of these activities the exploitation of the system is steadily increasing since the launch of the first satellite in 2007. The number of daily system acquisitions increased significantly in the last months, reaching a percentage of system exploitation in the range 80%-100%.

    With the aim to guarantee continuity in the SAR data exploitation, ASI is developing COSMO-SkyMed Seconda Generazione (CSG). The new constellation of two satellites aims at improving the quality of the imaging service, providing the end users with enhanced capabilities in terms of higher number of images and image quality (larger swath and finer spatial and radiometric resolution) with respect to the current COSMO-SkyMed. Moreover it will provide additional capabilities (e.g. full polarimetric SAR acquisition modes) granting a greater operative versatility both in terms of programming capability and the effective sharing of the system resources among different typologies of users requesting images of different characteristics.

    CSG mission has been conceived, according to the requirements stated by ASI and Italian Ministry of Defence, at the twofold need of ensuring operational continuity to the currently operating "first generation" constellation, while achieving a generational step ahead in terms of functionality and performances. In doing so, CSG inherits the operative modes of the former CSK sensor improving their performances. In addition, CSG will also support new sensor modes and functionalities, not provided by the current CSK.
    Hence CSG is not a mere recurring copy of COSMO-SkyMed first generation, constituting a jump ahead in terms of functionality and performances. CSG is based on a top level, state-of-the-art technology that interests:

  • a brand-new design of the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instrument, capable to make the space resolution of the "narrow field images" finer than CSK, while providing multi-polarization.
  • a renewed payload data handling and transmission (PDHT) design that significantly improves the performances of the PDHT currently in use in CSK, in terms of on-board data storage capacity (doubled), space-to-ground data transmission throughput (doubled), data reception rate from SAR.
  • a satellite platform enhanced from CSK, in terms of augmented electrical power (i.e. more than 40% of increasing, necessary to sustain the imaging performances), an avionics subsystem (AVS) new state-of-the-art design for a very high satellite agility, and an increased propulsion fuel tank capacity for a prolonged operative lifetime;
  • the ground segment (GS) upgraded from the CSK to complement the CSG space segment innovations necessary to manage, control, and utilise a system with such an increased performance, while ensuring the full architectural integration between the 'old' CSK and the new CSG ground architectures and capabilities, necessary for a smoother transition first, and an optimal conduction of both the systems during the nominal operative phase. Moreover, the CSG ground segment will implement increased interoperability and expandability capabilities;
  • the integrated logistic support and operations (ILS&OPS) segment that also provides an unique (CSK and CSG) operative perspective, unified tool suite and procedures for managing, operating, and maintaining the integrated "COSMO system" that will govern both constellations.

    In order to ensure operational continuity, the new CSG satellites will be ready for operations timely to replace the previous generation satellites whenever they are being progressively phased out at the end of their lifetime, starting from 2015 onward.