23. October 2019
IAC 2019

A new gen­er­a­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing – the DLR DE­SIS spec­trom­e­ter be­gins rou­tine op­er­a­tions on the ISS

Artist's impression of DESIS on the ISS
Artist's im­pres­sion of DE­SIS on the ISS
Image 1/3, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Artist's impression of DESIS on the ISS

The DLR Earth Sens­ing Imag­ing Spec­trom­e­ter (DE­SIS) pro­vides hy­per­spec­tral da­ta to sup­port sci­en­tif­ic, hu­man­i­tar­i­an and com­mer­cial ob­jec­tives. These da­ta con­tain in­for­ma­tion that can be used to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion fol­low­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter, sup­port farm­ers in the tar­get­ed man­age­ment of their land and serve sci­en­tists as a ba­sis for the de­vel­op­ment of nov­el at­mo­spher­ic cor­rec­tion al­go­rithms.
Environmental impact of agriculture on the coastal region of Sierpe, Costa Rica
En­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of agri­cul­ture on the coastal re­gion of Sierpe, Cos­ta Ri­ca
Image 2/3, Credit: DLR EOC - Nicole Pinnel/Peter Gege

Environmental impact of agriculture on the coastal region of Sierpe, Costa Rica

The im­pact of sewage and agri­cul­tur­al runoff on the wa­ter qual­i­ty of the Térra­ba Sierpe Na­tion­al Wet­lands, on the Pa­cif­ic coast of Cos­ta Ri­ca, has been eval­u­at­ed us­ing da­ta ac­quired by DE­SIS. In ad­di­tion to the RGB im­age (the vis­i­ble range of the elec­tro­mag­net­ic spec­trum; im­age 1), the eval­u­a­tions for sus­pend­ed mat­ter (im­age 2), dis­solved or­gan­ic ma­te­ri­al (re­ferred to as yel­low mat­ter or Col­ored Dis­solved Or­gan­ic Mat­ter (CDOM); im­age 3) and phy­to­plank­ton (im­age 4) are shown. Since phy­to­plank­ton is the first stage of many food chains, it is im­por­tant to know how this part of the lo­cal ecosys­tem is im­pact­ed by agri­cul­tur­al fer­til­i­sa­tion.
Costa Rica – DESIS data for water quality studies allows the impact of agriculture in the Sierpe region to be analysed
Cos­ta Ri­ca – DE­SIS da­ta for wa­ter qual­i­ty stud­ies al­lows the im­pact of agri­cul­ture in the Sierpe re­gion to be anal­ysed
Image 3/3, Credit: DLR

Costa Rica – DESIS data for water quality studies allows the impact of agriculture in the Sierpe region to be analysed

This DE­SIS im­age, ac­quired on 25 April 2019, shows the coastal area of Sierpe, Cos­ta Ri­ca. The RGB spec­trum can be seen (bands 16, 59 and 98, with wave­lengths of 440, 550 and 650 nanome­tres). With its hy­per­spec­tral im­ages, DE­SIS is cre­at­ing a database for wa­ter qual­i­ty stud­ies in those ar­eas of the Térra­ba Sierpe Na­tion­al Wet­lands in Cos­ta Ri­ca that are used for agri­cul­ture.

Space: Space, Earth observation, Global Change

On 23 October 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the U.S. company Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE) will announce the start of routine operations for the 'DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer' (DESIS). This instrument will be operated by DLR and TBE. It is the most powerful hyperspectral Earth observation instrument in orbit and addresses a wide range of applications. Its high-resolution image data will enable the development of measures for environmental protection and support the more efficient, ecological use of agricultural land.

Hansjörg Dittus, DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology stated: "This mission is already a complete success. Monitoring changes in our environment and searching for resources are among the most important tasks for our society today."

The hyperspectral Earth observation instrument provides images with a one-of-a-kind level of quality. The sensor system collects image data in 235 closely spaced spectral bands from on board the International Space Station (ISS), at an altitude of 400 kilometres. It has a ground resolution of 30 metres and a spectral resolution of 2.55 nanometres. This significantly increases the depth of information available in Earth observation data. The first images were acquired shortly after initial setup and DESIS data has already been used to identify plastic islands and oil slicks at sea. A few months ago, the high spatial resolution of DESIS made it possible to detect rare Earth elements (REE) from space for the first time.

Scientists can also use the DESIS data to investigate changes occurring in ecosystems on Earth's land surface and in its waters. For example, they can use it to assess the health of forests. The data can also be used to evaluate agricultural land in order to make meaningful yield forecasts. In addition, the data are available quickly enough to be able to provide rescue workers with detailed on-site information in the event of a disaster.

"With DESIS, DLR now has much sought-after hyperspectral data from space at its disposal for research purposes," says overall project manager Uwe Knodt, summing up the latest successes. "We are receiving requests for data from all over the world." Many countries already have hyperspectral space missions, but there is no other project with comparable imaging quality. TBE is responsible for the commercial distribution of the data. Research institutions can obtain the data from DLR for scientific purposes. Details are available on the DLR Earth Observation Center (EOC) DESIS page under the menu item 'Data Access'.

In late August 2018, German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst unpacked DESIS and prepared it for installation, moving it to one of the airlocks on the ISS. From there, a robotic arm was used to position it on the 'Multiple User System for Earth Sensing' (MUSES) Earth observation platform, which is attached to the exterior of the space station. The project was made possible by a unique partnership between DLR and TBE that significantly reduced mission costs, particularly for the launch. TBE also partly financed the development of the instrument. DESIS is therefore a particularly cost-effective space project, and its results are setting a new standard for hyperspectral missions.

  • Andreas Schütz
    DLR Spokesper­son, Head of Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2474
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Uwe Knodt
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Strate­gic Ser­vices, Head of De­part­ment
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2857
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
  • Rupert Müller
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Re­mote Sens­ing Tech­nol­o­gy In­sti­tute (IMF)
    Pho­togram­me­try and Im­age Anal­y­sis
    Telephone: +49 81 53282-758
    Fax: +49 81 53281-444
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
  • Dr. rer. nat. David Krutz
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Op­ti­cal Sen­sor Sys­tems
    Space In­stru­ments
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-613
    Rutherfordstraße 2
    12489 Berlin-Adlershof

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