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TanDEM-X - A New High Resolution Interferometric SAR Mission



TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X in formation flight

TanDEM-X (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) opens a new era in space borne radar remote sensing. The first bistatic SAR mission, is formed by adding a second, almost identical spacecraft, to TerraSAR-X and flying the two satellites in a closely controlled formation with typical distances between 250 and 500 m. Primary mission objective is the generation of a consistent global digital elevation model with an unprecedented accuracy according to the HRTI-3 specifications. Beyond that, TanDEM-X provides a highly reconfigurable platform for the demonstration of new SAR techniques and applications. The mission has been approved for full implementation by the German Space Agency and TanDEM-X is launched on June 21, 2010.

The TDX satellite is as much as possible a re-build of TSX with only minor modifications like an additional cold gas propulsion system for constellation fine tuning and an additional S-band receiver to enable a reception of status and GPS position information broadcast by TSX. This guarantees a low development risk and it offers the possibility for a flexible share of operational functions for both the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X missions among the two satellites. The TDX satellite is designed for a nominal lifetime of 5 years and has a nominal overlap with TSX of 3 years. TSX holds consumables and resources for up to seven years of operation, allowing for a potential prolongation of the overlap and the TanDEM-X mission duration.


The scientific use of the data can be divided into 3 areas: new quality Digital Elevation Models (e.g. for hydrology), along-track interferometry (e.g. measurement of ocean currents) and new bi-static applications (e.g. polarimetric SAR interferometry). The potential for commercial applications arises from the increase in the efficiency of the TerraSAR-X data production chain, high quality and efficient cartographic capability, as well as implementation of experimental modes and services.

TanDEM-X represents the first step for a constellation of radar satellites and will ensure the German leading position for X-Band SAR technology. The user community has access to a broad spectrum of scientific, commercial and security applications.

TanDEM-X is being realized in the framework of a public-private partnership between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and EADS Astrium GmbH. As for TerraSAR-X EADS Astrium is contributing to the cost of development, construction and deployment of the spacecraft. The scientific use of the TerraSAR-X data is in the responsibility of DLR, as is the mission planning and operation of the satellite, while Infoterra GmbH, a subsidiary of Astrium is responsible for the commercial exploitation of the satellite data. Four DLR Institutes are charge of developing the TanDEM-X ground segment: Microwaves and Radar Institute - HR (Lead), German Remote Sensing Data Center - DFD, Remote Sensing technology Institute - IMF, and German Space Operation Center - GSOC.   

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