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Meet the Copernicus Ground Segment Manager of the upcoming ROSE-L and CIMR missions

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Andrea Perrera is the Copernicus Ground Segment Manager for the future ROSE-L (Copernicus Radar Observation System for Europe in L-band) and CIMR (Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer) missions.

Andrea Perrera is the Copernicus Ground Segment Manager for the future ROSE-L (Copernicus Radar Observation System for Europe in L-band) and CIMR (Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer) missions. He is also preparing to soon take up the role for a running mission, Sentinel-1, while the mission enters its second decade in routine operations after it kicked off the Copernicus adventure back in 2014.

In this role, he is responsible for the management of the Ground Segment configuration and operations for these missions, all throughout the pre-launch preparatory phases and the routine operations phase.

Born in Catania, Sicily, he grew up in Rome where he lived during his school years and throughout his university studies. After completing his telecommunications engineering degree—which focused on remote sensing—obtained at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, he started his career at ESA in the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

During his time in the Earth Observation Science department, he provided support to the selection of ESA’s seventh Earth Explorer mission, focusing on ‘End to End’ simulations and performance for the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) candidates BIOMASS and CoreH2O.

He then moved on to Thales Alenia Space based in Rome, Italy, where he worked in the E2E System unit, working on space systems design, development and verification for Italian, European and commercial observation programmes, being involved in different phases from early development up to commissioning and operations. 

He  very recently joined ESA’s Centre for Earth observation (ESRIN) in the Copernicus Ground Segment and Data Management division.


ESA: How did your studies shape your job choices?

Andrea: I’ve always been fascinated by Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) space systems, since I was at university. I studied at La Sapienza University, where I got the amazing opportunity to learn from and interact with Professor Giovanni Picardi for my thesis—he is a reference point in the radar community thanks to the great impact of his findings within this science.

I developed a great passion for the sounding radar concepts that he conceived to investigate the Mars sub surface, and from there I carried on to tune my training during the Master’s degree around another type of radar, the SAR, capable of taking high resolution images of Earth from space, extending my passion to SAR design, products and ground processing.

Once I got my Master’s degree, I decided to pursue a career in the space domain and I applied for the YGT trainee programme in ESA. During the time I spent at ESA’s Science department, I had the opportunity to be in contact with universities and research centres developing science applications based on SAR, and I learned more on the benefits and the relevant information that SAR missions can bring, to improve our knowledge of Earth’s systems. At that point I was more than convinced that space would have been the right place for my career to develop and progress.The next step I took was based on the possibility to look deeper into the development of a space project from the industrial point of view. I moved to one of the leaders in space systems manufacturing, in particular for SAR systems.

After such a focus on the space segment, I am now in ESRIN on ground segment activities following my original passion for SAR products and ground processing algorithms.  

ESA: What does your role as Copernicus Ground Manager within the Ground Segment & Data Management Division entail?

Andrea: The role covers different aspects according to the missions’ phase. In particular, during the pre-launch phases, it entails the identification of challenges and opportunities introduced by the mission, to establish and manage the necessary evolutions for integration and operation of the future missions within the Copernicus Ground Segment.

This includes, among other aspects, the interaction with all the entities involved in the mission development, space segment and satellite operations, to define a plan for the preparation of the future ground operations, together with a technical and operational documentation baseline for the configuration of the mission-specific elements, such as for example the data downlink, mission planning and payload data processing, in support of the relevant ground segment services procurements

During on-ground and in-orbit verification, and then in nominal operations, this role entails managing the Copernicus mission-specific ground segment operations, in accordance with the Copernicus ground segment operations framework and in coordination with the other teams of the Copernicus Ground Segment, the Mission Management, the Mission Product Quality Management, the Space Segment and the Flight Operations Segment teams.

ESA: Although you are relatively new on the team, what do you feel are the challenges of managing two microwave Copernicus Expansions missions that have yet to be launched?

Andrea: The future operations of such amazing missions will come in with several challenges that require a set of evolutions of the current Copernicus ground segment framework, to allow an easy plug-in right after launch and smooth operations for the entire mission’s lifetime.

In particular, the concept of ground segment data flows needs to be considered carefully: the future missions will generate five to ten times more data than we are currently managing with the existing satellites, requiring possible adaptation of the design of our current architecture solution and interfaces, both in terms of the way we downlink data from the satellites and in the way we manage them on-ground to store them, process them, and distribute them to the users.

As a second challenge, we aim at delivering such data as close as possible to the time the measurements were collected, with very small delays in the steps from the satellite acquisition to the availability of the products. The timely data offer for future missions is a challenge on its own, but it becomes even more so when it is connected to the big amount of data that need to be managed.

ESA: How would you sum up your overall experience?


Andrea: My experience in these first six months has been really good. I appreciated the kind welcome of my colleagues, the very dynamic environment, and the stimulating challenges posed by the new missions. I feel lucky to be involved in such amazing projects, in terms of technical quality and science impact contribution.

Furthermore, the ESRIN site in Frascati is incredible in terms of functionality of the spaces, availability of green areas and how it is organised, also in terms of nice social activities to be able to integrate within teams.


Meet the Team