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Sweden and Earth Observation Systems

The Swedish remote sensing activities are mainly carried out within the framework of ESA programmes, in bilateral cooperation (primarily the Satellite pour l'observation de la Terre (SPOT) with France) and within the European Commission. The main goals for Sweden's Earth observation activities are to support research and technology, to secure the continuity of global data and to promote the use of information from satellites for societal applications.

SNSB funding of Swedish research and development activities in the area of Earth observation includes financial support to research groups, for method and technique development and to users who intend to start or expand the use of remote sensing data. Research is carried out in areas such as forestry, global monitoring, climate change, meteorology, geodesy and atmospheric physics. At the moment, global monitoring and activities linked to the European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative have high priority within the Swedish remote sensing programme.

From 1997 to 2002, Sweden also had a large research programme called Remote Sensing for the Environment, supported by the Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) and managed by Metria (a division of the Swedish surveying authority, Lantmäteriet). The main goal of the programme was to develop operational remote sensing methods. Some of the projects are still ongoing within a smaller programme funded by MISTRA, together with the different participating remote sensing users.

The use of remote sensing data is steadily expanding, especially within governmental organizations. The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) is one of the main remote sensing users in Sweden and the Institute has contributed significantly to the development of forecasting services by using and processing data from both polar and geostationary weather satellites.

The Swedish National Board of Forestry is another major remote sensing user. The Board uses SPOT and Land Remote Sensing Satellite (LANDSAT) data in a GIS-based forest support system. Since 1999, national coverages with SPOT or LANDSAT data have been purchased yearly. The satellite images are used in each of the 100 local offices. This means that more than 500 people use the data, for example to check if felling is actually carried out according to what has been reported to the Board.

Sweden participates in the SPOT programme, together with Belgium and France. SPOT consists of a series of five Earth observation satellites that were launched between 1986 and 2002. Important applications of SPOT imagery lie in the areas of mapping, telecommunications, forest management, agriculture, environmental monitoring, geology and planning. On board SPOT 4 and 5 is also the VEGETATION instrument, which is a sensor developed jointly by the European Commission, Belgium, France, Italy and Sweden. The VEGETATION system enables daily and global monitoring of the entire continental biosphere and crops.

Esrange, near Kiruna, is in all likelihood the world's busiest Earth observation ground station. Thanks to its position at a high northern latitude, Esrange is particularly well suited to receive data from and to track and control satellites in polar orbit and it supports many Earth observation satellites in polar orbit, such as LANDSAT and SPOT. The Swedish Space Corporation also has an X-band ground station near Malmö in southern Sweden. This gives Sweden the capability of complete coverage of all of Europe from Earth observation satellites in direct reception mode.

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