24 January 2023


Data, Earth Observation, Media Updates, News, Space

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The European Commission’s (EC’s) flagship initiative Destination Earth is making significant advances, with announcements in recent weeks by two of its leading contributors – the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). RHEA Group is supporting both organizations with the implementation of this major project that is designed to address Europe’s ambition to tackle climate change.

On 1 January 2021, the EC launched a project to create a high precision digital model, or digital twin, of the Earth called Destination Earth (DestinE). The aim is to enable policymakers and other stakeholders, including the public, to analyze the Earth’s past, monitor its present and predict its future. Among the many benefits this will offer are the ability to anticipate the effects of climate change and identify ways to mitigate them more easily.

DestinE has three components: the DestinE Core Service Platform (DESP), the DestinE Data Lake (DEDL) and the Digital Twin Engine (DTE). DESP is a cloud-based collaborative environment providing tools, applications and services for end-users, including policy and decision makers, scientists and non-technical users, which is being developed by ESA. DEDL, led by EUMETSAT, is a federated environment providing storage of all the Earth observation and in situ data being input to enable the digital twins, and all the data and information that then originates from the digital twins, making it accessible initially via DESP and later directly. Finally, the DTE is a common software framework for hosting and running multiple and diverse digital twin models of the Earth: this is the responsibility of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

It is being developed in three phases. By 2024, the core Service Platform and the Data Lake should be ready, along with two individual digital twins focussing on extreme natural events and climate change adaptation. Then by 2027, the DestinE system will be further advanced, with integration of additional digital twins and related services. The target for completion of the full digital replica of the Earth is 2030.

Building DestinE

The ambitious project relies on a range of technologies and expertise, including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, supercomputers and high-speed connectivity networks. RHEA is providing system engineering services to EUMETSAT in the form of support to the cloud system architectural design of the Data Lake and Warehouse. RHEA is also working on another DestinE component, leading an 18‑month project to select, on behalf of ESA, end-to-end use cases to be integrated in DESP and establish a DestinE user community of stakeholders to fuel future innovation.

DestinE will be based on data from various sources, including those from the Copernicus Earth observation (EO) programme, which includes both satellite and in situ data. Europe’s extensive repository of EO data, some of which stretches back over 40 years, will be vital for DestinE to offer accurate modelling because it provides historical evidence of changes and trends.

Creating a comprehensive, accurate digital twin of the Earth presents numerous challenges, including processing the vast quantities of data involved and combining existing unconnected datasets. In addition, once operational, an effective digital twin needs to be fed with a constant data stream, requiring continuous data collection, while any measured observable changes must be fed back into the data model in a virtual cycle. It also needs building in such a way that the AI elements can continuously learn and generate insights, which can then be interpreted by human experts.

DestinE benefits

When complete, DestinE will provide numerous benefits. It will enable scientists and researchers to simulate Earth systems’ processes with unprecedented detail and reliability, letting us monitor and predict environmental changes and their impact on human life. In particular, it will support response to natural disasters, helping save lives and reduce the socio-economic damage. Importantly, it will be open to anyone to use, giving citizens the opportunity to assess policies and measures that would affect them.

RHEA is proud to support this major European initiative whose potential benefits are huge for building a comprehensive picture of our planet. DestinE is a great example of how space technologies can be a driver of sustainability and help to tackle climate change.

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Image: © ESA