going beyond expectations for global vegetation monitoring
The user king
Joost Vandenabeele
- Manager of Belgian EO programmes Belgian Science Policy Office
© ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013

“The year was 2008 and the SPOT VEGETATION mission was fast approaching the end of its nominal life span. Since its start in 1998, thousands of users had come to depend on its data for their operations and for monitoring our living green planet. Yet none of the partners in the mission seemed willing to ensure a continued delivery of suitable data products.

With Sentinel-3 just a speck on the horizon, the then head of BELSPO’s Space Department, Monique Wagner, had the vision the take the plunge. She gambled that the Belgium EO industry had what it took to bridge the gap and build a mission in way befitting a small player such as Belgium: cheap, fast and small. And despite widespread misgiving, the industry rose to the challenge and Belgium was able to engage ESA for the development of what came to be known as the PROBA-V.

While the technological innovations were exhilarating, the role of the user was key from the start. I was BELSPO’s designated person in the initiatives set-up to ensure that the PROBA-V mission would deliver what the users wanted and needed: the PROBA-V International Users’ Committee and the PROBA-V preparatory programme.

By the time of the launch, it had become clear that the mission would be a success and we were ready to share the first successful images with the world on July 4th during the Probing Vegetation conference in Antwerp. The massive turnout of the press seemed to indicate that the world indeed was eager for PROBA-V. Alas, the press was not there for PROBA-V but to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be-king HRH Prince Phillippe of Belgium, who wanted to know more about the mission.

Yet, not many missions can start their life with such a royal blessing and PROBA-V prospered and continued to deliver on all of its promises. And more.”

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