DLR opens large-scale Earth observation data computing facility

DLR opens large-scale Earth observation data computing facility

Operations have commenced at 'Terrabyte' – one of Europe's largest scientific platforms for analysing Earth observation data. It is an initiative of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

For the first time, the platform enables researchers to efficiently analyse global datasets from Earth observation satellites at the highest resolution. With regard to global change, researchers can thus also determine the effects on humans and the environment more precisely and develop suitable courses of action. This applies, for example, to the drastic changes in the polar regions, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, and the growing urbanization that is occurring worldwide. Terrabyte is secure and independent of commercial operators. The launch of the large-scale computing facility took place on 14 June 2023 at LRZ in Garching, near Munich, with guests in attendance from government and academia.

AI-based methods and high-performance computing

Terrabyte provides current and historical Earth observation data collected over five decades as well as intelligent big-data analysis methods using cloud services. In addition to extensive data from the German TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X missions and the US Landsat Program, these also include all products from the Sentinels of the European Copernicus Earth observation programme. In addition, users can integrate information from social networks into their analysis.

"Terrabyte is a big step forward for geoinformation research. Big data, the latest AI-based processing methods and high-performance computing are combined in a unique way. Terrabyte not only forms the foundation for our science but is also a significant economic driver for Bavaria and Germany. The basis for this is the cooperation with our partners and the associated knowledge transfer," said Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, chair of the DLR Executive Board.

Stefan Dech, director of the German Remote Sensing Data Center at DLR added: "With the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, we have found the ideal cooperation partner for this challenging project. With Terrabyte, we have an autonomous and secure platform with comprehensive global datasets from Earth observation that we can access together with our partners. At the same time, Terrabyte forms a technological bridge between our Oberpfaffenhofen and Garching sites."

"Terrabyte meets the diverse requirements for efficient data storage, data science, AI and cloud services, and even high-performance computing and supercomputing. With our many years of knowhow in these areas, we combine all these technologies into a customized service for Earth observation. It is not only DLR researchers who benefit from the huge amount of historical and current satellite data via Terrabyte, but also scientists in Bavaria and Germany. It is a very exciting, but also challenging project which was made possible thanks to the intensive and excellent cooperation between the colleagues from DLR and the LRZ," stated Dieter Kranzlmüller, chairman of the Board of Directors at LRZ.

With terrabyte, global EO data can be analysed in the highest resolution for the first time. (Image courtesy: DLR)
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