Month: April 2016

India’s Seventh Navigation Satellite IRNSS-1G Launched By PSLV-33

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The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its thirty-fifth flight (PSLV-C33), launches IRNSS-1G, the seventh satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) into a Sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO). The launch took place from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota on April 28, 2016. As in the previous six launches of IRNSS satellites, PSLV-C33 uses ‘XL’ version of PSLV equipped with six strap-ons, each carrying 12 tons of propellant.

  (Fully integrated PLSV-C33 with IRNSS-1G at First Launch Pad, SHAR Sriharikota)

 The ‘XL’ configuration of PSLV is used for the thirteenth time. Besides launching six IRNSS satellites, PSLV-XL has also launched many other spacecraft including India’s Mars Orbiter spacecraft, the multi-wavelength observatory ASTROSAT, Radar Imaging satellite RISAT-1 and the Communication satellite GSAT-12. This apart, PSLV-XL has successfully placed five satellites from United -Kingdom into orbit in a single commercial mission.

This is the thirty-fourth consecutively successful mission of PSLV, repeatedly proving its reliability and versatility.

IRNSS-1G is the seventh of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. IRNSS-1A, 1B, 1C, ID, IE and 1F,  the first six satellites of the constellation, were successfully launched by PSLV on July 02, 2013, April 04, 2014, October 16, 2014, March 28, 2015, January 20, 2016 and March 10, 2016 respectively. All the six satellites are functioning satisfactorily from their designated orbital positions.

IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1500 km around the Indian mainland. IRNSS provides two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Services (SPS) – provided to all users and Restricted Services (RS) –  provided to authorised users. A number of ground facilities responsible for satellite ranging and monitoring, generation and transmission of navigation parameters, etc., have been established in eighteen locations across the country.  Today’s successful launch of IRNSS-1G, the seventh and final member of IRNSS constellation, signifies the completion of the IRNSS constellation.

Honourable Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, heartily thanked and congratulated all the ISRO scientists and team ISRO for completing IRNSS constellation and dedicated IRNSS to the nation as ‘NavIC’ (Navigation Indian Constellation).  He appreciated India’s space community for making the country proud through such achievements which have helped in improving the life of common man.

Spationet community congratulates Indian scientists for achieving this milestone.

Source

PSLV-33 Brochure

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Sentinel-1B Launched to Complete RADAR Pair

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The second Sentinel-1 satellite – Sentinel-1B – was launched on 25th April 2015 to provide more ‘radar vision’ for Europe’s environmental Copernicus programme. Sentinel-1B lifted off on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:02 GMT (23:02 CEST), separating from the rocket’s Fregat upper stage 23 min 35 sec later.

Sentinel-1B joins its identical twin, Sentinel-1A, in orbit to deliver information for numerous services, from monitoring ice in polar seas to tracking land subsidence, and for responding to disasters such as floods. “Orbiting 180° apart, the two satellites optimise coverage and data delivery for services that are making a step change in the way our environment is managed.”

Sentinel-1B in orbit

(Artistic rendition of satellite in orbit)

Both satellites carry an advanced radar that images Earth’s surface through cloud and rain regardless of whether it is day or night.

During the launch, the satellite’s 12 m-long radar antenna and two 10 m-long solar wings were folded up to fit into the Soyuz rocket’s protective fairing.

“Importantly, the programme is helping to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers by transferring ESA know how in designing, building, testing, launching and operating satellites,” said Piero Galeone, ESA’s Head of the Tertiary Education Unit.

“This way we are helping to shape the space workforce of the future by enabling students to experience the full lifecycle of a real space project according to ESA’s standards.”

Launch video

Sentinel-1 constellation

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Insurers use drones for crop yields

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Private insurance companies are using drones to photograph farms and if permitted by the agriculture ministry these could provide data to calculate crop yield.

Insurers are using unmanned aerial vehicles as a pilot scheme. The agriculture ministry has called for use of such modern technology for the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).Insurers use drones for crop yields
Drones have not gained widespread commercial use, as individuals need permission from local governments and other regulatory bodies to fly them. The government is also keen on using technology such as smartphones and remote sensing to reduce crop cutting experiments and help cut delay in payments to farmers.

The scheme, approved by the Cabinet, in January will have a uniform premium of two per cent to be paid by farmers for all kharif crops and 1.5 per cent for all rabi crops. For commercial and horticultural crops, the farmers’ premium is five per cent. The rest of the premium will be paid by the government.

Anuj Tyagi, member of executive management at HDFC ERGO General Insurance, said his company had conducted a project with drones in Rajasthan. “We think using drones will be a successful experiment,” he added.

He said in Rajasthan, his company had looked at data collected by drones as well as satellite images, and they were happy with the results. “However, this can be taken further only after more exhaustive testing.”

Additional weather-based devices and satellites will be used by the government for crop insurance. The weather department will map anomalies caused by rain, hail storms and floods.

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NASA Satellites Unlock Secret to Northern India’s Vanishing Water

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Beneath northern India’s irrigated fields of wheat, rice, and barley … beneath its densely populated cities of Jaiphur and New Delhi, the groundwater has been disappearing. Halfway around the world, hydrologists, including Matt Rodell of NASA, have been hunting for it.

Where is northern India’s underground water supply going? According to Rodell and colleagues, it is being pumped and consumed by human activities — principally to irrigate cropland — faster than the aquifers can be replenished by natural processes. They based their conclusions — published in the August 20 issue of Nature — on observations from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

visualization of India showing groundwater data

“Water below the surface can hide from the naked eye, but not from GRACE,” said Rodell. The twin satellites of GRACE can sense tiny changes in Earth’s gravity field and associated mass distribution, including water masses stored above or below Earth’s surface. As the satellites orbit 300 miles above Earth’s surface, their positions change — relative to each other — in response to variations in the pull of gravity. The satellites fly roughly 137 miles apart, and microwave ranging systems measure every microscopic change in the distance between the two.

artist concept of a water table   water table data of India

(First image shows Groundwater resides beneath the soil surface in permeable rock, clay and sand as illustrated in this conceptual image. Many aquifers extend hundreds of feet underground and in some instances have filled with water over the course of thousands of years. Credit: NASA. Second image shows the averaging function (spatial weighting) used to estimate terrestrial water storage changes from GRACE data is mapped. Warmer colors indicate greater sensitivity to terrestrial water storage changes.Credit: NASA/Matt Rodell)

Data provided by India’s Ministry of Water Resources suggested groundwater use was exceeding natural replenishment, but the regional rate of depletion was unknown. Rodell and colleagues had their case study. The team analyzed six years of monthly GRACE gravity data for northern India to produce a time series of water storage changes beneath the region’s land surface.

They found that groundwater levels have been declining by an average of one meter every three years (one foot per year). More than 109 cubic km (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared between 2002 and 2008 — double the capacity of India’s largest surface water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the United States.

“We don’t know the absolute volume of water in the Northern Indian aquifers, but GRACE provides strong evidence that current rates of water extraction are not sustainable,” said Rodell. “The region has become dependent on irrigation to maximize agricultural productivity, so we could be looking at more than a water crisis.”

Source

India’s water crisis report, 2005

NASA’s GRACE Mission

Achievements of Department of Space during the year 2015 : ISRO

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Following are the significant achievements and details of the Innovative Programmes launched by the Department of Space during the year 2015:

1. MARS Orbiter Mission:

India’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft has successfully completed its mission objective as planned and has completed one year around Mars orbit on September 24, 2015. It was successfully placed into an elliptical orbit around planet Mars on September 24, 2014. The Mars Orbiter successfully came out of the solar conjunction (a phase of communication blackout) in July 2015 using the On-board autonomy built in the spacecraft. The Spacecraft is in good health and all the five scientific payloads are providing valuable data about the Mars surface features and Martian atmosphere. The images of Mars captured by the Mars Colour Camera have been found to be of very good quality.  The increased duration of observation of Mars by five scientific payloads beyond the designed life of six months is enabling enhanced coverage of Mars in different seasons. A book titled ‘From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet’, India’s space Journey, with series of articles from luminaries from ISRO, was released on November 05, 2015, on the second anniversary of Mars Orbiter spacecraft launch.

By successfully placing Mars Orbiter Spacecraft around Mars, ISRO has become the fourth space agency to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars orbit and India became the first country in the world to do so in its first attempt. The mission has benefited the country by (i) Upgrading the technological capabilities in spacecraft design including onboard autonomy, miniaturization, optimization of onboard resources (ii) providing excellent opportunities in planetary research for the scientific community and (iii) generating interest in youth of the country towards science and technology.

Mars Orbiter Mission has been awarded “Space Pioneer Award” for science  and engineering category for the year 2015 by the US based National Space Society. The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development has been awarded to ISRO in recognition of its path-breaking.

2. Successful launch of GSLV with Indigenous Cryogenic Stage:

On Aug 27, 2015, Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D6), equipped with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), successfully launched GSAT-6, the country’s advanced communication satellite, into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). This was the second consecutively successful flight of GSLV with the indigenous CUS, which underscores the success of ISRO in mastering the highly complex cryogenic rocket propulsion technology. This launch also signifies a major step forward in achieving the self-reliance in launching 2 Ton class communication satellites into GTO.

3. Development of Next Generation Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III:

The first experimental flight of heavy lift next generation launch vehicle, GSLV-Mk III, was successfully conducted on December 18, 2014 from Sriharikota. This flight has validated the complex atmospheric regime of flight and demonstrated the Integrity of design of GSLV Mk III.

During the experimental flight of GSLV Mk III, the unmanned Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) has also been successfully tested for its re-entry performance. Crew module splashed down over Andaman Sea with the help of its parachutes and was recovered from the sea with the help of Indian Coast Guard as per the mission plan.

Endurance hot test of High Thrust cryogenic engine (CE20) of GSLV-Mk III was successfully conducted on July 20, 2015.  The test was conducted for 800 seconds as compared to its nominal burn duration of 635 seconds during flight. This engine will be used for powering the Cryogenic stage (C25) of GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle. Another short duration (5.7 s) hot test on the CE20 engine has been carried out on Aug 10, 2015 to demonstrate the successful engine ignition with tank pressure conditions as in flight.

GSLV Mk III is designed to launch 3.5 to 4 Ton class communication satellites to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.

4. Navigational Satellite System:

 Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) is designed as a constellation of seven satellites to provide satellite-based navigational services in the country.

IRNSS-1C, the third Navigational satellite of India, was successfully launched on-board Polar Satellite launch Vehicle PSLV-C26 on October 16, 2014. IRNSS-1D, the fourth satellite in this series was successfully launched on-board PSLV-C27 on March 28, 2015.  The first two satellites viz. IRNSS 1A &1B were launched on-board PSLV earlier on July 01, 2013 and April 04, 2014 respectively.

With the operationalisation of four navigational satellites in orbit, it is now possible to provide Position, Navigation and Timing services. The IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is expected to be completed by 2016.

The IRNSS System will benefit the country by providing positioning services over Indian Land Mass and a region extending to the about 1500 Kms around India. The convergence of communication, earth observation and navigation satellite technologies will prove to be a boon in coming years for location based services and informed decision making.

GAGAN (GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation), which is primarily being used in aviation sector for precise position information services, has been certified by DGCA for Navigation Performance level of Approach with Vertical Guidance (APV-1) over India. With this, India becomes the Third country in the world, after USA and European Union, to offer Global Navigational Satellite System (GNSS) based precision approach services to civil aviation sector. The GAGAN System jointly developed by ISRO and AAI is a giant leap forward in the development of GNSS services in India and will redefine navigation in both aviation and non-aviation application areas.

5. Augmenting the Satellite Communications infrastructure:

GSAT-15, a 3-ton class communication satellite (carrying 24 Ku band transponders & GAGAN payload) has been successfully launched on November 11, 2015 at 3.04 hrs IST. GSAT-15 will further augment the INSAT/GSAT system capacity for DTH, TV broadcasting, Digital Satellite News Gathering and VSAT services and other societal benefits.

GSAT-6, the country’s Advanced Communication Satellite (carrying S-Band payload with 5 spot beams & C-Band Payload with one beam) was successfully launched on Aug 27, 2015 into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. S-Band Unfurlable Antenna of 6 meter diameter was successfully deployed on August 30, 2015. The satellite has now been positioned in its designated orbital slot of 83 degree East longitude. GSAT-6 is intended to be used for satellite-based mobile communications with hand-held terminals for strategic applications.

6. India’s first multi-wavelength Observatory in Space:

ASTROSAT satellite, India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite was successfully launched by PSLV-C30 on September 28, 2015. ASTROSAT enables simultaneous Ultraviolet to X-Ray observations to study Stars and Galaxies. It will also provide opportunity to task observations for the scientific community.

ASTROSAT is a unique mission with combination of scientific instruments covering near ultra-violet, far ultra-violet and x-ray bands for multi wavelength observations.  The ultraviolet imaging telescope of ASTROSAT has a best resolution of 1.8 arc second combined with large field of view.  ASTROSAT is a vital contribution of India to the Global research community in the area of Astronomy.

7. Commercial Launch of PSLV:

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle has launched 17 foreign satellites from seven countries (Canada, Indonesia, Singapore, UK, and USA) during 2015 as given below:

(a) India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C28, successfully launched five satellites from United Kingdom viz. DMC3-1, DMC3-2, DMC3-3, CBNT-1 and De-orbitsail from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota on July 10, 2015 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.

(b) PSLV-C30, along with ASTROSAT has successfully launched six co-passenger satellites, 4 LEMUR Satellites (USA), Lapan-A2 (Indonesia) ; NLS-14 (Canada) on September 28, 2015.

(c) PSLV-C29 has successfully launched six satellites of Singapore. Of these six satellites, TeLEOS-1 is the primary satellite whereas the other five are co-passenger satellites which include two microsatellites (VELOX-CI, Kent Ridge-1) and three nano satellites (VELOX-II, Athenoxat-1, Galassia)

During the year 2015, a total of 17 foreign satellites were successfully launched from India which takes the total number of foreign satellites launched to 57.

8. National Meet on promoting Space Technology-based tools and Applications on Governance & Development: 

The one day National Meet on promoting Space Technology-based tools and Applications on Governance & Development was organized on September 07, 2015 at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi to deliberate on the action plans of various Ministries/Departments. The National Meet received an overwhelming response with participation of more than 1200 delegates across 60 Central Ministries/Departments, 28 States and 5 Union Territories. Secretaries, Additional Secretaries, Joint Secretaries to Government of India, Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretaries of the States and senior functionaries of Central and State Governments, officials from Prime Minister Office & Cabinet Secretariat, young administrators (the fresh batch of 2013 IAS officers), experts from academia and institutions have actively participated in this Meet.

The National  Meet comprised of Nine theme sessions (Agriculture, Energy & Environment, Infrastructure Planning, Water Resources, Technology Diffusion, Developmental Planning, Communication & Navigation, Weather & Disaster Management and Health & Education) addressing different domains of national development. Secretaries of 58 Ministries/Departments have presented the joint action plans to enhance functional effectiveness, facilitate planning and decision making. Chief Secretaries/ Principal Secretaries of 9 States have also made presentations on use of space technology in specific sectors.

A Special Session was conducted in the presence of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.  In his remarks, the Prime Minister emphasized the need for new initiatives in all the areas of governance, using the space technology and applications. He asserted that technology is the most powerful medium that the Government has to utilize to ensure good governance, transparency and accountability.

9. Initiatives on Satellite for SAARC Region:

ISRO/DOS, with active support from Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), hosted a Conference on “Satellite for the SAARC region and Space Technology Applications” on June 22, 2015 at New Delhi.  The conference deliberated on configuration and ground Infrastructure requirements for the proposed ‘Satellite for the SAARC region’ as well as other space technology applications. Representatives from all SAARC member countries have participated.

10. Disaster Management Support:

The Indian Remote Sensing, Meteorological and Communication satellites have immensely helped in the management of recent events of disasters witnessed by the country viz. J&K Floods, HudHud Cyclone and J&K Landslides. These satellites have provided near real time support in terms of early warning, assessment of damages, emergency communication. The massive landslides blocking Sun Koshi River in Northern Nepal in August 2014 and Phuktal River in Zanskar region of J&K in January-March 2015 were monitored regularly using Indian Remote Sensing Satellites. Flood inundation maps and information on their progression & recession were disseminated on daily basis to concerned agencies.

During the recent earthquake in Nepal, remote sensing data obtained from Indian and foreign satellites was analyzed in near real time to identify the collapsed structures and new landslides resulted due to earthquake in parts of Nepal. The processed information derived from satellite data was provided to National agencies viz. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and National Disaster response Force (NDRF) and also to international agencies viz., British Army, UK; International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal; National Intelligence Agency of US, and UNOSAT and other relief teams of Nepal, Korea, Russia, France, Germany etc. for unifying the efforts and coordinating rescue operations.

Innovative Programmes launched and its expected positive impact on the general public:

1. Identifying the water bodies in tribal dominated districts, which could be developed to culture fisheries

Tribal inhabitants require regular income mechanisms, instead of current assistance protocols delivering resource only in periodical fashion. Ministry of Tribal Affairs has programme on identifying existing and potential water collection spots which could be developed for fish culture using Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). This scheme is for 168 Tribal dominated districts (> 25 % tribal population) in 24 States/UTs.

ISRO has provided maps for small water bodies generated using satellite data. In order to use these satellite-based maps, capacity building for the state level officials has been done in Odisha, West Bengal, North-East, Gujarat and Jharkhand. This enables identifying existing water bodies and identifying new sites, wherein Runoff can be harvested for fish cultivation along with conventional farming.

Water body database will be used to plan enhancement of fishery as livelihood alternative or livelihood augmentation in tribal areas. Small water body based fishery can help tribal inhabitants to get regular nutrition as well as income.

2. Monitoring and evaluation of developmental activities in the watersheds

Department of Land Resources programme on Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) is for restoring the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water.

ISRO is providing online satellite data, tools and mobile app through Bhuvan geoportal for monitoring of watershed developmental activities for about 52,000 micro-watersheds in 10 States and 50 identified districts across the country. Capacity building is also being provided to DoLR officials in utilizing the Bhuvan tools for satellite data, GIS and mobile apps. The effective implementation of the IWMP will ensure Optimal soil & water conservation and assured crop irrigation due to water resources harvesting which help to provide sustainable livelihoods to the people residing in the watershed area.

Farmers get their livelihood on sustainable basis due to biomass improvement also. De-silting of tanks and other watershed activities that provide employment generation under MNREGA are also being evaluated using satellite data.

3. Space Based Information Support for Decentralized Planning:

Using high resolution satellite data, state-wise natural resource database is being generated for the entire country at 1:10000 scale.  This spatial data base integrated with field level information and traditional wisdom helps in preparation of locale-specific action plans for land & water management for development of their locality. The availability of such information at grass root level enables decentralized planning and empowering panchayats in decision making.

Bhuvan Panchayat Portal provides functionalities required to carry out the decentralized planning process at grass-root level. Citizens in general and three tiers of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) (Gram Panchayat, Block Panchayat and District Panchayat) in particular are the users of the Portal. It helps PRIs in tracking the progress of work undertaken by citizens under various schemes.

4. Conservation of heritage sites

The conservation of world heritage sites, ancient monuments and archaeological sites is of national importance and helps in development and promotion of Tourism, which is one of the major engines of economic growth. The systematic database of heritage sites and Site Management Plans generated using space technology will help to take informed decisions in conservation, preservation and monitoring activities of the site. The space based technology tools are also being planned for mapping and identification of vulnerability of each monument and preparation of plans to track and mitigate environmental or weather changes that may have an adverse impact on fragile monuments.

5. Automated warnings at unmanned level crossings

Pilot studies for automatic warnings at unmanned level crossings have been carried out using GAGAN, Rail-Navigator tools; MSS based tracking system and Bhuvan.  It comprises of a geospatial database on the accurate locations (geographical coordinates) of unmanned level crossings and GAGAN enabled devices mounted on the train engine.  A train mounted with such a device would know the location of unmanned level crossing and train’s hooter will automatically start when it approaches near to an unmanned crossing. Expert committees/ Councils are setup by Railways to discuss and finalize the modalities of implementation.

6. Weather and Climate

Indian meteorological satellites provide synoptic measurement and derivation of various weather parameters such as cloud motion vectors, cloud top temperature, water vapour, humidity, rainfall at frequent intervals to aid in improved weather forecasting, including the genesis of cyclones, their track and landfall prediction.

The data products are disseminated through web based services for the needs of scientific community in the country. Also, Android Application has been developed for viewing 3 hourly weather forecasts.

7. Bhuvan Geoportal

It is providing seamless high resolution remote sensing data (1m to 2.5m) for visualization, terrain data and thematic layer overlays of Indian region along with host of services in the areas of disaster, weather, land and ocean for general public. It has about 51,000 registered users and has served more than 2.8 lakhs downloads.

On 12th August 2015, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh, released New services of Bhuvan. The new application services include – 1 m images of over 300 Cities of the country and host of visualization applications for common man.

8. Data Connectivity to Rural India

DOS/ISRO has fast-tracked the realization and launch of GSAT-11 communication satellite.  GSAT-11 is an advanced communication satellite with Ku and Ka Band communication payload capable of providing upto 10 Gbps throughput.  With such capacity, this satellite is expected to provide high bandwidth data connectivity for rural India as envisaged under Digital India.  Satellite structure is already realized and payload fabrication is in progress.  Initiatives have been taken to accelerate the development and realization of other critical subsystems of the satellite.  The satellite is targeted for launch in the year 2017.

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What Happens When You Combine Artificial Intelligence and Satellite Imagery

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“Machine learning is turning the data into an omnipresent source of business intelligence”

Facebook has a vested interest in helping the 4.2 billion people who still lack reliable Internet access find their way online. But when the social media company launched an effort in 2013 to provide connectivity to some of the world’s most remote and disconnected regions, it immediately ran into a problem. Facebook knew these disconnected billions existed—just not precisely where in the world they were.

So the Facebook Connectivity Lab team set out to find them. Using technology similar to what allows Facebook to recognize faces in photos uploaded to its service, the company sifted through more than 14 billion geospatial images captured by satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe. The resulting maps (shown below) reveal the locations of more than 2 billion disconnected people spread across 20 countries, many of them developing nations where even basic mapping data is scarce.

(Image Courtesy: DigitalGlobe)

“There’s a lot of location data out there, but there hasn’t been a good way to use it to answer questions,” says Kevin Lausten, director of geospatial big data at DigitalGlobe. “If you can start to correlate all this information, you can uncover business opportunities.”

Discovering correlations within reams of visual data requires technology that can both see and comprehend. To turn DigitalGlobe’s raw satellite images into meaningful insights, Facebook engineers had to teach their image-recognition engines what to look for—in this case, man-made structures and other infrastructure indicative of human activity. Then they set the software to work on roughly 14.6 billion DigitalGlobe images, documenting the location of every building across some 21.6 million square kilometers of the earth’s surface.

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A NASA first: Computer model links glaciers, global sea level

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Even as computer models of a changing Earth grow ever more accurate, a major stumbling block remains: marrying models of ice, ocean, atmosphere, the solid Earth, and other components of the earth system to create a truly global picture.

A new modeling method takes a major step in that direction. Created by three members of NASA’s Sea Level Change team, the new method allows researchers, for the first time, to weave high-resolution models of changes in individual glaciers into global models of relative sea level and solid Earth deformation, with great numerical accuracy and computational efficiency.

The "fingerprints" of sea level rise revealed by a new computer modeling method that links changes in glaciers, ice sheets, and continental water storage to relative sea levels worldwide. Bluer areas, near Greenland, reflect a loss of ice mass, counterintuitively resulting in a sea level drop. In redder areas, sea levels are rising faster than global-mean rates. This map shows the linear trend in sea-level change and covers the period from 2003 to 2015. Image courtesy Surendra Adhikari, JPL.

(Image: The “fingerprints” of sea level rise revealed by a new computer modeling method that links changes in glaciers, ice sheets, and continental water storage to relative sea levels worldwide. Blue areas, near Greenland, reflect a loss of ice mass, counterintuitively resulting in a sea level drop. In redder areas, sea levels are rising faster than global-mean rates. This map shows the linear trend in sea-level change and covers the period from 2003 to 2015. Image courtesy Surendra Adhikari, JPL.)

State-of-the-art simulation code originally dedicated to solving the ice-flow mechanics called the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM; http://issm.jpl.nasa.gov/), also developed at JPL, served as the scaffolding upon which the new modeling method was built. But the heart of the new approach lies in the intricate mathematics – particularly the so-called Green’s function formulation – of Earth’s gravitational and rotational theory.

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