The instruments on Germany's hyperspectral Earth observation satellite, Environmental Mapping and Analysis Programme (EnMAP), will observe the sunlight reflected from Earth across a wide range of wavelengths from the visible to the short wave infrared. This will make it possible to accurately study the condition of Earth's surface, and the changes affecting it. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2018 and is designed to continuously operate for five years.
Scope for new scientific applications
EnMAP will be an exceptionally high-quality hyperspectral sensor and the data acquired is expected to open up new applications. It should help to find global answers to a range of questions dedicated to environmental, agricultural, land use, water management and geological issues.
Conventional multi-spectral sensors record radiation reflected from Earth in a small number of broad spectral channels. They deliver reliable data and information, for example, about land coverage and its spatial distribution. For qualitative statements on subjects such as the type of vegetation, these measurement methods are adequate. However, quantitative information such as the provision of nutrients to crops, water quality of lakes or the identification of the mineralogy in rocks and soil demands higher-resolution spectral data than conventional multi-spectral sensors can provide.
EnMAP will carry a 'hyperspectral instrument' – essentially a spectrometer that depicts Earth's surface by contiguous spectra assembled by about 250 narrow bands. This will provide detailed information about vegetation, land use, surface rocks and waterways. The data can be used to provide information about the mineralogical composition of rocks, the damage to plants caused by pollution and the degree of soil pollution, among other applications.
EnMAP will fly at a sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 643 kilometres above the Earth, recording data with a 30 x 30 metre ground resolution. Using a tilting mode of plus minus 30 degrees perpendicular to the flight path, this allows to acquire data over any point on Earth within a four-day period. This will make it suitable for recording changes that occur over time, such as the effects of erosion or the growth seasons of vegetation. Spectroscopic Earth observation delivers insights into how the ecosystems in many different natural environments are distributed and how they evolve or are being created – from coastal zones and man-made landscapes to steppes, deserts and forests.
The German Research Centre for Geosciences (Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum; GFZ) in Potsdam is the scientific lead for the project. The DLR Space Agency has the overall project management responsibility for the mission. DLR space research institutes are also responsible for building the ground-based infrastructure. Satellite operation, data reception, archiving and distribution as well as calibration are handled by the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) together with the German Remote Sensing Data Center (Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum; DFD) and the Remote Sensing Technology Institute (Institut für Methodik der Fernerkundung, IMF), all based in Oberpfaffenhofen with locations in Berlin, Neustrelitz, and Weilheim. DLR will be responsible for operating the mission for its five-year duration. Kayser-Threde GmbH is responsible for development and integration of the satellite and the hyperspectral instrument.