The UK Space Agency will host a data hub in partnership with the Satellite Applications Catapult to provide UK scientists and organisations with access to observational information collected from satellites.
The hub will have access to 8TB of data per day in near real time from a family of satellites that make up part of the Copernicus programme, the EU's most ambitious Earth observation initiative to date.
The facility will harvest data initially from Sentinel-1 (pictured above), which was launched in October. Sentinel-2 is scheduled for launch in May.
More satellites are likely to follow, as the EU has plans to invest €3.8bn over the next seven years.
Dr David Parker, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said the observational data collected from the Copernicus programme has several benefits.
"Europe's Sentinel satellites are set to live up to their name by watching over our planet and providing us with the vital data we need to solve the climate and environmental problems facing mankind," he said.
"By hosting a Sentinel data hub and making the satellites' unique data readily available in the UK, we can continue our leading work in the field of Earth observation whilst opening up new business opportunities from the commercial development of space data."
Ian Boyd, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, highlighted how the data can help in the creation of environmental policy based on robust scientific evidence.
"This Earth observation data has the potential to allow a wide range of organisations to help our environment. This historic agreement will ensure everyone can access this information for free," he said.
The data hub will be located in Harwell, Oxfordshire in the centre of a space-centric technology business cluster.
It is hoped that having a cluster community surrounding the hub will encourage the development of space-derived climate and environmental services.
The hub will effectively link two facilities: the Satellite Applications Catapult, which will provide storage and processing of the observational data for the industrial community; and the Jasmin facility, which will offer the same service but to the academic community.
A high-speed data link will connect the Catapult to an Airbus data centre in Farnborough, which will provide additional processing capacity for commercial users.
This will bypass the need for organisations to download vast amounts of data for processing.
The capacity for collecting and crunching vast amounts of data is becoming more prevalent in researching climate change and forecasting environmental effects, as evidenced by the Met Office's plans to build a £97m supercomputer.
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