Written Evidence Submitted by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)

(SPA0045)

 

Preface

 

OGC is a global consortium of over 520 members focused on making geospatial/location information FAIR (Findable Accessible Interoperable and Reusable) via open consensus-based standards, innovation projects and partnership building. The OGC membership in the United Kingdom is the third highest number of members in any nation and has many other international industry organisations with a local presence.

 

About the OGC

 

Of our 520 strong global membership approximately 40% are commercial service providers, systems integrators, and technology providers. The members range from small and medium-sized enterprises to large multinational organisations in the public, private, academic, and not-for-profit sectors. The Consortium was established in 1994 and offers a wealth of historical records, reports and presentation materials relating to geospatial problem-solving. Our goal is to define and deliver the industry standards platform for location interoperability across the web, wireless, and mainstream Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The OGC is the only industry consortium that comprehensively addresses issues related to location and space to enable the integration of all spatial data types and real-time spatially related technologies, including but not limited to the enterprise, cloud, mobile, and sensor environments.

 

Some of the space agencies in the OGC Membership include the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), India’s National Remote Sensing Centre, Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the National Space Organization (NSPO) of the Republic of China.

 

Several meteorological agencies are also active members of the OGC, for example the UK Met Office, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Meteo-France, Finnish Meteorological Institute, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Australian Bureau of Meteorology and others. Commercial aerospace companies that are members of the OGC are listed on the Members page of the OGC website (https://www.ogc.org/ogc/members).

 

Introduction

 

The House of Commons Science and Technology (S&T) Committee is conducting an inquiry into a new UK Space Strategy and UK Satellite Infrastructure. This document presents the response of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) to the inquiry.

 

Through the inquiry, the S&T Committee is seeking written submissions until Wednesday 23 June addressing any or all of the following topics: 

 

  1. What are the prospects for the UK’s global position as a space nation, individually and through international partnerships;
  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current UK space sector and research and innovation base;
  3. What lessons can be learned from the successes and failures of previous space strategies for the UK and the space strategies of other countries;
  4. What should be the aims and focus of a new UK Space Strategy, including considerations of: 

a)      technology; 

b)      skills and diversity; 

c)      research funding, investment and economic growth; 

d)      industry; 

e)      civil and defence applications;

f)       international considerations and partnerships;

g)      place;

h)      current regulatory and legislative frameworks and impact on UK launch potential; and

i)        impacts of low Earth orbit satellites on research activities.

  1. What needs to be done to ensure the UK has appropriate, resilient and future-proofed space and satellite infrastructure for applications including:

a)      navigation systems; 

b)      weather forecasting; 

c)      earth observation including climate change; and

d)      communication (including broadband).

 

Responses

 

Q1. What are the prospects for the UK’s global position as a space nation, individually and through international partnerships;

 

The UK has a credible prospect of becoming a space nation both individually and through international partnerships. The greatest impact, however, is likely to be achieved through international partnerships that enable space agencies to share innovation and operational costs. UK organisations across the government, private and academic sectors should have more actively involvement in international organisations such as the OGC and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Alongside this, creating improved collaboration between UK government agencies would provide an international offering with greater impact.

 

In areas of space-based Earth Observation, collaboration between UK government agencies could be improved through increased use of open standards (especially OGC Standards) and experimentation in testbeds. OGC runs annual OGC Testbed initiatives that bring together sponsors such as the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the UK Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl). OGC Testbed-17 is an example of such collaboration (https://www.ogc.org/projects/initiatives/t17). The testbeds could provide a good platform for UK organisations to develop their capabilities, showcase their products/services and to engage potential customers in the global market.

 

Q2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current UK space sector and research and innovation base;

 

One of the strengths of the UK Space sector is the UK’s membership of ESA. This membership enables UK-registered entities to bid for ESA initiatives and to partner with business from other Member states to bid for ESA work. This facilitates Cost Sharing and Skills Building. For UK-based OGC Member organisations, the UK’s membership of ESA has enabled those OGC Member organisations to bid for ESA-funded innovation initiatives in testbeds, pilots and other activities.

 

 

Q3. What lessons can be learned from the successes and failures of previous space strategies for the UK and the space strategies of other countries;

 

 

Both ESA and NASA have been very successful in establishing an environment for scientists to access data collected by space missions. One of the main technology trends in this area is the development of Earth Observation Exploitation (EO Ex) Platforms. Responding to this growing technology trend, OGC established a Domain Working Group (DWG) to bring stakeholders together to share lessons and experiences (https://www.ogc.org/projects/groups/eoexplatform). This DWG has been successful in developing a best practice (currently in draft) for Earth Observation Application Packages. The idea behind these EO App Packages is to enable scientists to deploy code (whether source or compiled) closer to the Data Stores rather than expect data to be transmitted to a scientist’s own environment. This enables more scientists to participate in the analysis of very large datasets. Several lessons relating to this technology trend are documented in engineering reports from the OGC Earth Observation Applications Pilot initiative (https://www.ogc.org/projects/initiatives/eoa-pilot).

 

 

Q4. What should be the aims and focus of a new UK Space Strategy

 

The primary aim of the strategy should be to invest in collaborative innovation projects like those conducted by the OGC, to ensure that there's a path from innovative technologies to operations at scale, which are critical to the success of a UK space strategy and global competition.

 

 

 

Q5. What needs to be done to ensure the UK has appropriate, resilient and future-proofed space and satellite infrastructure for applications

 

OGC Members would encourage the UK to continue to participate in ESA, if possible. Further the UK should look to increase collaboration with NASA and build collaboration with other national EO systems and Space Agencies e.g. new Australian Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, French CNES and others. By virtue of being implemented by most major space agencies, OGC Standards can play a key role in enabling interoperability between UK Space infrastructure and that of its partners. How this can be achieved is described below:

 

 

(June 2021)