International and bilateral context
GEO or the "Group on Earth Observations" was launched in July 2003 at the instigation of the United States.
The consortium comprises some 50 countries and 30 organisations. 16 February 2005 in Brussels was the date and venue for
the third GEO "Earth Observation Summit" to prepare for the launch of GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems).
GEOSS aspires to provide scientists and policy-makers with comprehensive relevant, high-quality information about the Earth system
in the long term. Europe is a driving force within GEO as a result of its experience with the development of the GMES initiative.
During the GEO Summit, Belgium emphasised its role in the context of GMES, it approved the activities already brought to a successful
conclusion by GEO and undertook to play an active part in the development of GEOSS.
The UNESCO earth observation programme seeks to investigate how satellites for earth observation and geographical information systems
may be deployed for preserving natural and cultural World Heritage Sites. The Belgian Science Policy Office has already harnessed
its forces so as to develop a monitoring system within this framework for coral reefs in Indonesia and the Sagalassos archaeology
site in Turkey.
Multilateral SPOT and Pleiades programmes
Belgium has been involved with the French SPOT programme since its inception in 1986.
More specifically, Belgium is financing the Centre de Traitement d'Images VEGETATION (CTIV), the ground installation that
has the exclusive responsibility for all activities involved in processing, archiving and shipping VEGETATION products.
The CTIV is accommodated by the Flemish Technological Research Institute (VITO) and has gained an enviable reputation owing to
its professional approach. Pursuant to a decision the Council of Ministers took on 20 December 2002, Belgium guarantees
funding for the CTIV until 2008 and seeks to use the existing infrastructure and expertise for products from other sensors.
In a bid to guarantee Earth observation data is constantly available on a European-wide basis, France has decided to develop
two satellites comprising ultra high resolution optical sensors. The first Pleiades satellite was launched on 17th December 2011.
The second satellite is due to launch at the beginning of 2013.
The Pleiades system complements the Italian Cosmo-Skymed radar system which is also under development.
Together they form the ORFEO system: Optical and Radar Federated Earth Observation. Pursuant to a decision by the Council of
Ministers on 26 May 2004, Belgium is taking part in the development of the Pleiades system and the preparatory programme for
the use of Orfeo data. Covering a six-year period, the programme is aimed at preparing the community of users for the deployment
of data from the ORFEO system via the development of new image processing methods and new operational products. The Belgian
scientific earth observation community is involved in five thematic work groups (Agriculture, Cartography and Land Planning,
Marine and Coastal Environment, Civil Protection and rapid response). Six Belgian fundamental research projects form part of
the Methodology component of this preparatory programme.