STEREO in action

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Belgium has its very own national programme supporting research in Earth observation called STEREO (Support To Exploitation and Research in Earth Observation).

This programme, managed by the “Space Research and Applications” directorate of the Belgian Science Policy office (BELSPO), offers to Belgian universities, public scientific institutions and non-profit research institutions opportunities and tools for the development of an expertise in Earth observation and a maximized scientific use of satellite and airborne data.

STEREO III programme

The STEREO programme is currently in its third phase (STEREO III: 2014-2021). It is the seventh in a continuous series of programmes (preceded by TELSAT I-IV, STEREO I and STEREO II), ensuring a continuous funding of Earth observation research since the launch of the first initiative in 1985 as support to the Belgium participation in first SPOT satellite development.

There is an obvious synergy between STEREO III, ESA and EU activities. Notably the thematic research priorities of STEREO III are in line with those of H2020. These are: 

  • Global monitoring of vegetation and evolution of terrestrial ecosystems
  • Management of the environment on a local and regional scale (water, soil, forest, nature reserves and biodiversity, agriculture, coastal areas, urban and peri-urban areas)
  • Interaction between (change in) land cover and climate change
  • Epidemiology and humanitarian aid
  • Security and risk management
STEREO III's objectives

STEREO III's goals evolved from those in the previous programmes and are:

  • Support innovative high quality research in the field of remote sensing.
  • Keep/put Belgium on the map as international centre of expertise in a number of remote sensing fields.
  • Stimulate international collaborations and to secure integration of Belgian teams in international partnerships.
  • Support Belgium’s remote sensing instruments and platforms.
  • Stimulate the development of new remote sensing applications.
  • Introduce the use of remote sensing in new disciplines and to new users.
  • Promote remote sensing and especially results of Belgian and STEREO research.
STEREO III's structure

The STEREO III programme is organized around three pillars:

Scientific research

The scientific research covers on the one hand the research projects  research projects (thematic networks, exploration, shared-cost and dissemination and support) as such and on the other hand the development of applications.

Transversal support of scientific STEREO research

The transversal support concentrates activities which are beneficial to the entire Belgian remote sensing community. The 3 main activities conducted in STEREO III are:

  • The further development of the Belgian BELAIR test sites, a string of locations in Belgium of which a high volume of both Earth observation data (hyperspectral, very high resolution…) and in situ data (field campaigns, flux towers…) is being collected and integrated.
  • In parallel with the BELAIR activities, a STEREO toolbox is under construction to offer everyone user-friendly access to software previously developed within the Belgian remote sensing community;
  • Support to “Belgian” Remote sensing instruments and infrastructure, e.g. through the organisation of dedicated APEX campaigns, support to the Belgian Copernicus Collaborative Ground Segment.

User support and promotion

The STEREO programme has always been keen to offer high quality user support and promote remote sensing and Belgian initiatives in the field of Earth observation.

Support to satellite data users is achieved by offering information to the scientific community and by ensuring satellite image acquisitions for the needs of BELSPO funded projects.

To promote Remote Sensing and Belgian commitment in Earth Observation, the STEREO team 

  • offers information to the public at large and answers your questions in the field of satellite Earth Observation;
  • develops educational and promotional material;
  • supports events;
  • publishes articles, booklets and reports;
  • promotes Belgian participation in the Pléiades programme.
Related programmes

The currently ongoing STEREO III programme is but one in a series of BELSPO funded programmes dealing with remote sensing that go back over 30 years. While remote sensing was only a (minor) component in some of the programmes, it was the sole focus in most of them.

The various programmes are listed below:

Past Belgian Earth observation research programmes

STEREO II (2007-2013) - 62 projects

PROBA-V Preparatory Programme (2010- 2011) - 7 projects

ORFEO - Support Programme for the use of Optical and Radar Federated Earth Observation data (2004 -  2009) - 7 projects

STEREO I (2001-2006) - 36 projects

VGT Research Programme - Scientific support for the exploitation of the "Vegetation" instrument (2001-2005) - 2 projects

Telsat IV (1996-2001) - 74 projects

Telsat III (1993-1996) -  20 projects

Telsat II (1989-1993) - 29 projects

Telsat I (1985-1989)

BELSPO financed programmes with an EO component

BILATERAL - Bilateral agreements (2001 - ) - 12 EO projects

SSD - Science for a Sustainable Development (2006 - 2016)  - 5 EO projects

SPSD 1 - Global change and sustainable development (1996 - 2000) - 5 EO projects

Other programmes

CNES Vegetation Preparatory Programme (1995 - 2000) - 14 projects

UNESCO World Heritage Project (2001) - 3 projects


Discover the world of remote sensing in Belgium: this section gives access to a vast database of knowledge regarding Earth observation in Belgium.


Events and timed opportunities organised by BELSPO, STEREO or its partners