An increasing number of rail companies worldwide are starting to explore the commercial and operational benefits of integrating space technologies in their systems.
Applications with great potential include train positioning and signalling, locomotive performance monitoring, communications for maintenance crews, level crossing safety, and monitoring for landslides and subsidence. Users range from rail operating companies to the organisations responsible for maintaining rail infrastructure and even banks that in some cases own the rolling stock or other assets.
In view of these developments, the European Space Agency has launched a new web portal to identify how challenges and needs in the rail sector can be met by the use of space-based solutions; and to explain how ESA co-funding programmes can be used to support that aim.
The ESA programmes included in the Space4Rail initiative are:
- Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES)
- General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)
- Technology Research Programme (TRP)
- General Studies Programme (GSP)
In addition to co-funding the development of innovative applications, services, products and systems, ESA offers expert advice from specialists, the use of the Agency's extensive laboratories, and its knowledge of space. The Agency can also serve as a broker between the space industry, the railway industry, and service providers.
“We believe space assets have tremendous potential to serve the rail industry,” says ESA's Michele Castorina, who was instrumental in establishing the new portal. “The challenge is to adapt the technology to the various national rail networks, many of which have unique characteristics and requirements.”
The new portal can be found at: http://space4rail.esa.int/