ESA’s ice mission is now giving scientists a closer look at oceans, coastal areas, inland water bodies and even land, reaching above and beyond its original objectives. Launched in 2010, the polar-orbiting CryoSat was developed to measure the changes in the thickness of polar sea ice, the elevation of the ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica, and mountain glaciers.
Europe’s third Galileo satellite has transmitted its first test navigation signals back to Earth. The two Galileo satellites launched last October have reached their final orbital position and are in the midst of testing.
On 21 November 2012, ESA concluded a successful two-day Council meeting at ministerial level in Naples, Italy. Ministers from ESA’s 20 member states and Canada allocated €10 billion for ESA’s space activities and programmes for the years to come.
On 10 November, an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, Eutelsat-21B and Star One-C3, into their planned transfer orbits. The satellites were accurately injected into their transfer orbits about 28 minutes and 33 minutes after liftoff, respectively.
In the Netherlands, local authorities are looking to satellite observations as a promising option for dike monitoring and to protect against dike failures. In a recently completed Terrafirma study, the IJsselmeer dikes were checked using radar data from ESA's Envisat satellite for the period 2003–10.
The risk of natural disasters can be reduced by understanding our environment and the fundamental forces that shape it. Earth-observing satellites can provide vital information to mitigate and prepare for disasters.