COSMO-SkyMed radar turned to Australian oil spills

3D surface map of St Peter’s Basilica created using COSMO-SkyMed data and a technique called ‘persistent scatterer pair interferometry’, capable of detecting weak spots in structures or ground deformation (e-GEOS)

7 February 2018

Data from Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed synthetic aperture radar constellation is to help monitor oil spills in Australia, through a geo-information service agreement with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). E-GEOS, the Telespazio-Italian Space Agency (ASI) joint venture that markets data from the four-satellite constellation, will service the Australian contract through local partner Geospatial Intelligence.

The satellite data will help AMSA identify illegal oil dumping in the seas. The agreement may also pave the way to further uses of satellite data, such as in search and rescue operations

COSMO-SkyMed, launched between 2007 and 2010 and funded by ASI and the Italian defence ministry, claims to be the only civil-military dual-use radar Earth observation constellation currently flying. Over 10 years the system, flying in a 620km Sun-synchronous orbit, has captured more than one million images for applications including security, land monitoring, resources management, emergency response and combating the effects of climate change. The name is an acronym – Constellation of Small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation – and imagery helped assess ground movement from the August 2016 earthquake in the Apennine region of central Italy.

All four satellites have reached the end of their design lives but remain in service. The two oldest are due to be replaced by second-generation units being built, as were the originals, by Thales Alenia Space.

COSMO-SkyMed radar imagery detailed the extent of ground movement in the devastating August 2016 earthquake in central Italy (ESA/CNR-IREA)