Tag Archive for: ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has initiated a demonstration project in collaboration with Marple, a German technology firm, to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite data for certifying organic cotton farms in India and preventing fraud. The project aims to train Marple’s software to analyze imagery from ESA’s Sentinel-2 satellites, which orbit the Earth in a polar trajectory, to identify cotton fields across India and classify them based on their cultivation method.

Marple previously tested this software in Uzbekistan, achieving a 98% accuracy in distinguishing between organic and conventional cotton. Now, the project will be conducted in partnership with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a non-profit organization that sets a voluntary global standard for the textile industry.

The demonstration in India is particularly important for enhancing the accuracy of the software, as the country has diverse climatic conditions, a prevalence of small fields, and intercropping practices that can make distinguishing organic cotton more challenging. The software leverages a range of sensors to collect data on vegetation, water, soil, and other indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which measures the health and density of vegetation.

The project aims to demonstrate how AI and satellite data can streamline the certification process for organic cotton farms, ensuring the authenticity of organic produce and combating fraud in the industry.

The initial outcomes from the project in India are anticipated to be available by the end of the year, and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) intends to utilize these results to enhance yield estimations. The project aims to identify cotton fields with traditional and environmentally friendly farming practices, including smaller farms that may operate without organic certification. If fields certified as organic are found to have failed to meet the required criteria, they will be flagged for investigation prior to harvesting their cotton.

One of the challenges in the organic sector is the lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which fraudulent practices have impacted the industry. Additionally, there is currently no reliable data source regarding the number of organic cotton farms in India, making it difficult to accurately assess the quantity of organic cotton being cultivated and its origins.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is co-financing the project in India through its Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) program in collaboration with GOTS. They have allocated approximately 500,000 euros ($535,000) to support the demonstration, which utilizes satellite data and artificial intelligence to verify organic cotton farms and address fraud within the industry.

Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract to develop quantum technologies based on another push by the European Space Agency (ESA) to use the behavior of subatomic particles to make communications more secure. 

The European satellite maker has said that it is leading a consortium called TeQuantS, which aims to develop technologies that are needed to demonstrate quantum communication links from space in three years.

These links are projected to be more secure than conventional networks by using the entanglement properties of photons, because any attempt to intercept them would change their state.

According to Thales, Terrestrial quantum communication networks using fiber optic cables are limited to about 150 kilometers and satellites are better suited for using these capabilities over longer distances.

According to Chinese state media, the Micius satellite China launched in 2016 was the first quantum-enabled spacecraft.

NASA and startups including Singapore’s SpeQtral are also exploring space-based quantum capabilities to protect communications from increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks, such as by quantum computers.

The overall contract ESA awarded TeQuantS is worth around 10 million euros ($11 million), said Mathias Vanden Bossche, director of research, technology and product policy at Thales Alenia Space.

Bossche told SpaceNews via email, that this amount covers the first phase lasting 12 months, to start technology qualifications that could lead to a potential demonstration in 2026.

It is part of ESA’s multi-pronged approach to advance quantum communications technology, notably under a framework called EuroQCI (European Quantum Communication Infrastructure.)

Two groups have secured contracts under the EuroQCI framework to study quantum communication architectures: One led by Airbus and another by German telco Deutsche Telekom.

EuroQCI covers many projects ranging from ground to space segments. The main objective is to define the overall architecture of quantum-based networks and set up terrestrial test beds.

TeQuantS is focusing on technology developments for the space segment, Bossche said, and targets a wider scope than EuroQCI.

And unlike an ESA project led by satellite operator SES aiming to develop a satellite to test the distribution of quantum encryption keys for cryptography, he said TeQuantS will also study ways to connect quantum computers and quantum sensors in a multipurpose network.

While quantum key distribution (QKD) is important for security, he said generic networks will need to be able to support the many applications and greater performance promised by quantum information networking

“These generic networks are the real at-stake and challenge of quantum communications,” Bossche added.

“Overall, the Thales Alenia Space project is the first project that addresses quantum information networks in space.”

The TeQuantS consortium comprises Airbus, seven smaller firms and startups, and two research laboratories.