TerraSAR-X - Germany's radar eye in space
German radar satellite TerraSAR-XThe German radar satellite TerraSAR-X will orbit the Earth in a polar orbit at a height of 514 kilometres; using the mission's newly designed active antenna, it will gather high-quality X-band radar data from the entire planet. TerraSAR-X will operate independent of weather conditions, cloud coverage or lighting and will supply radar data at a resolution of up to 1 metre.
TerraSAR-X is a German Earth-observation satellite. Its primary payload is an X-band radar sensor with a range of different modes of operation, allowing it to acquire images with different swath widths, resolutions and polarisations. TerraSAR-X thus offers space-based observation capabilities that were previously unavailable. The objective of the mission is to provide value-added SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) data in the X-band, for research and development purposes as well as scientific and commercial applications.
The successful launch of TerraSAR-X on 15 June 2007 at 08:14 local time from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan marked the start of a campaign to map the Earth at an unprecedented level of accuracy. Since then new and high-quality radar images of the Earth's surface have been created.
Night and overcast conditions are no problem for TerraSAR-X
The satellite is in a near-polar orbit around the Earth, at an altitude of 514 kilometres. Using its active radar antenna, it is able to produce image data with a resolution of down to one metre, regardless of weather conditions, cloud cover or absence of daylight. Every part of this satellite was built in a very compact way. It has a five meter long body with hexagonal cross-section carrying an active radar system as its primary payload. The radar beam can be electronically steered within a range of 20 to 60 degrees perpendicular to the flight direction, without having to move the satellite itself. The advantage is obvious: The desired area can be targeted without time delay and a denser sequence of images is possible than with fixed beam radar that requires mechanical alignment. Since 2010, it has been followed by the almost identical TanDEM-X satellite, which, in addition to the TanDEM-X mission, also carries out conventional SAR images and thus makes an additional contribution to the TerraSAR-X mission.
TerraSAR-X was realised on behalf of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with funds from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. It is the first German satellite to be realised as part of a public-private partnership (PPP) between DLR and Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium): The use of TerraSAR-X data for scientific purposes is the responsibility of DLR, which is also responsible for the conception and execution of the mission as well as satellite control (all available data can be searched online by registered users in the DLR catalogue EOWEB - see link in right-hand column; scientists can submit project proposals to DLR and receive data under COFUR conditions (Cost Of Fulfilling User Request). Airbus Defence and Space contributes to the costs for the development, construction and operation of the satellite. The programme line "Geo-Intelligence" is responsible for the commercial marketing of the data. Since 2016, the project has been carried out on under a continuation agreement with Airbus.
Germany - world leader in Earth observation
With TerraSAR-X, techniques and knowledge gained from earlier radar missions are expanded and systematic long-term observations are carried out. For example, the observation of vegetation is of outstanding importance for human life. Precise and up-to-date information on the distribution, composition and alteration of vegetation species is the basis for many applications. One of the outstanding features of TerraSAR-X is its high spatial resolution, which has never before been achieved by a civil radar system. This enables scientists to include detailed soil characteristics, such as the differentiation of different crops, for better classification.
|TerraSAR-X at a glance:|
|Launch mass:||1230 kilograms|
|Payload mass:||about 400 kilograms|
|Radar frequency:||9.65 Gigahertz|
|Power consumption:||800 watt (on average)|
|Resolution:||1 metre, 3 metres, or 16 metres|
(depending on the image size)
|Launch vehicle:||Dnepr 1 (converted SS-18)|
|Launch date:||15 June 2007, 4:14 CEST|
|Launch site:||Baikonur, Kazakhstan|
|Orbital altitude::||514 kilometres|
|Angle of inclination with respect to the equator:||97.4 degrees (Sun synchronous)|
|Mission life time:||at least 5 years|
The DLR Microwaves and Radar Institute (DLR-Institut für Hochfrequenztechnik und Radarsysteme), the DLR Remote Sensing Technology Institute (DLR-Institut für Methodik der Fernerkundung) and the German Remote Sensing Data Center (Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum; DFD) of DLR cooperate closely in the 'SAR Center of Excellence'. The partner institutions complement each other by covering all relevant fields, from sensor technology and mission design to high-precision operational processing and value-added end-user products. Together with DLR's German Space Operations Center (Deutsches Raumfahrt-Kontrollzentrum), these institutes are also responsible for building the TerraSAR-X ground segment as well as operating the satellite over a period of five years.
Big Data from Space – seeking solutions for the flood of data from spaceEarth observation satellites provide important data that allows the rapid detection of changes to the environment and climate, for example, or measurements of the movement or shrinking of glaciers. Up-to-date maps can be provided to the emergency services in the event of disasters such as flooding or earthquakes.
Glacier retreat in Antarctica – innovative radar technologies enable improved predictionsThwaites Glacier, one of the most fragile glaciers in western Antarctica, is melting inexorably into the Amundsen Sea at an ever-increasing rate. Until now, it has been responsible for approximately four percent of the global rise in sea level and will cause the oceans to rise by over 65 centimetres in future as its remaining ice melts.
Global 3D elevation model from the TanDEM-X mission now freely availableThe 90-metre TanDEM-X Digital Elevation Model has been released for scientific use and is now available as a global dataset. By providing this data, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) follows the EU data policy under the Copernicus Earth observation programme, which encourages free and open access to satellite data.
PAZ Earth observation satellite successfully launchedThe Spanish Earth observation satellite PAZ was successfully launched on 22 February 2018 at 15:17 CET from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, United States, on board a Falcon 9 rocket. Interestingly, PAZ is being positioned on the same orbit as the German TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X radar satellites.
A better understanding of geo-risks – focusing on the AndesMore and more people around the world are flocking to cities, creating densely populated regions. This also means that natural disasters pose a threat to a greater number of people, and that risk has been rising for decades worldwide.
The future of radar – scientific benefits and potential of TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-XThe German satellite duo TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X have consistently delivered one-of-a-kind Earth observation data since 2007 and 2010, hence shaping the international research landscape. Now, scientific users from across the globe have gathered for the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Science Meeting at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen, where they will discuss the results obtained from the data and define requirements for future remote sensing technology.
MARSAT – assisting the maritime world from spaceA new corporate network will ensure increased safety and lower costs in the field of maritime traffic in future. Five private companies and a research institute are now working together within the MARSAT project to develop new services for the maritime industry using satellite data.
Fifteen years of disaster relief from space – global patterns and trendsToday, the analysis and use of satellite images is commonplace. Just 15 years ago, however, only a handful of specialists worked with these valuable data. Since then, a particular niche expertise has rapidly developed – the use of satellite data for disaster management.
Satellite images for Disaster Risk ReductionThe earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the tsunami in Japan in 2011 that was triggered by an undersea earthquake, and the severe floods that, time and again, affect countries such as India and Bangladesh give rise to the question of how Earth observation satellites could help detect and study natural disasters in a more effective way.
Elke HeinemannGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)German Space Agency at DLR
Strategy and CommunicationsTelephone: +49 2203 601-2867
Königswinterer Straße 522-524Contact
Dr.-Ing. Stefan BuckreußGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)Microwaves and Radar InstituteMünchener Straße 20Contact