National security has been a primary focus of government space activities for as long as the ability to build and operate satellites and other spacecraft has existed. Satellites can be used to generate detailed reconnaissance imagery and support communications with troops as they travel to distant and remote regions.
Safety is also an important concern on offshore oil platforms. Engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Astro Technology have collaborated to address some of these dangers, including both worker safety and dangerous leaks into the surrounding environment.
Plastic computer screen covers are a common alternative to delicate glass in rugged industrial settings, but their tendency to transfer electrostatic charges can create a serious risk of explosions in the dusty atmosphere of mines.
Noting that the complexity of tracking trains across an extensive national rail network is similar to that of monitoring and controlling a satellite in orbit, ESA contractor Elecnor Deimos envisaged a way to apply satellite tracking software to the Spanish rail system.
The global coverage provided by space assets gives them a distinct advantage in applications related to largescale transportation and logistics. The customs and border control process of verifying cargo can lengthen the time required for cross-border shipments and complicate logistics.
Scientific and technological advances from space have added a performance-improving tool to the arsenal of professional sports teams and training centers. Kinexon One is a new addition that promises to improve individual and team performance by providing highly accurate data of athlete movements during training. Smaller than a mobile phone, the device contains both inertial sensors and a GNSS receiver. The combination of location information from these two sources provides precise location tracking as athletes move.
Companies can capitalize on smartphones with GNSS receivers in new ways to reduce their operating costs. Microjobbing, or crowdsourcing small jobs rather than dispatching employees to perform a simple task, is the aim of German startup company “wer denkt was” and its smartphone application AppJobber. Registered users of AppJobber can view nearby microjobs on a map and complete the requested task in exchange for a few euros transferred from the company into their AppJobber account.
The Climate Corporation provides tailored weather insurance to farmers based on a database of satellite and ground weather data collected over the past 30 years, adjusted for the impact of climate change. Farmers state the levels of rainfall and temperature ranges for which they would like coverage, and the database is used by Climate Corporation to calculate the risk and associated cost of the insurance. The company was purchased in October 2013 by agriculture giant Monsanto for $1 billion, illustrating that data services related to satellite-based Earth observation are viewed as a valuable addition to efforts to improve crop yields and profits.
New space-based services created to assist companies and inform investors continue to emerge. Satellite information can benefit certain activities, such as commodities trading, that directly depend on raw material. In September 2013, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest net oil importer, heralding an increased wave of oil trade investment in China. Yet while the United States releases official figures detailing net oil imports, stockpiles, and refinery figures, China is largely silent on oil consumption data.
The high-resolution imaging capabilities of satellites can be used to help power utilities with maintenance and planning. High rates of copper wiring theft at electrical substations motivated electricity company Dominion Virginia Power to hire DigitalGlobe Analytics for a solution. DigitalGlobe compiled satellite, air, and ground images of the electrical system and studied previous thefts to identify the next most likely targets. By improving security at these locations, which were primarily those near scrap metal businesses, copper theft was reduced by ##%.