TerraSAR-X goes into operation

Press Release From: DLR
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2008


German radar satellite delivers top quality Earth observation data

The German radar satellite, TerraSAR-X, went into operation on 7 January 2008. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Infoterra GmbH, the company responsible for commercial marketing, decided on this date following the successful outcome of the operational readiness review in December.

Scientists and engineers from DLR and EADS Astrium have spent the past few months calibrating and commissioning the satellite . They appear to be completely satisfied with the exceptional performance of the TerraSAR-X system. "We are overjoyed that TerraSAR-X can go into operation as planned and send back such fantastic images," said Rolf Werninghaus, the DLR project manager for TerraSAR-X. "For the past five months the team has worked hard on preparing the satellite and the associated Earth-based facilities for this moment and optimising the data processing chain in order to obtain the very best we can from the images produced".

Initial results after just four days in space

The German radar satellite, TerraSAR-X, was launched last year on 15 June from the Russian Space Centre in Baikonur in Kazakhstan into a near-Earth orbit 514 kilometres up. After just four days the German Remote Sensing Data Centre in Neustrelitz recorded the first data. Shortly afterwards this was successfully converted into the first images at the DLR Remote Sensing Technology Institute in Oberpfaffenhofen .

Since then the satellite has been subjected to further tests in what is called the "commissioning phase" including in particular the measuring instruments on board that were calibrated by the DLR Institute for High Frequency Technology and Radar Systems so that the images created will satisfy the high demands of science and the commercial market. In a special review it was recently ascertained that the radar satellite and the Earth-based systems both for its operation and for creating the data products were fully functional and ready to go into operation. The TerraSAR-X operating phase can therefore start as planned. For this the German Space Operations Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen has taken on the role of mission control.

TerraSAR-X is the first German satellite to be manufactured under what is called a public-private partnership (PPP) between the German Aerospace Center and Astrium GmbH in Friedrichshafen.

The satellite circles Earth in a polar orbit and records unique, high-quality X-band radar data of the whole planet with its active antenna. TerraSAR-X works regardless of weather conditions, cloud cover and daylight and is able to provide radar data with a resolution of up to one metre.

DLR is responsible for using TerraSAR-X data for scientific purposes. It is also responsible for planning and implementing the mission as well as controlling the satellite. Astrium built the satellite and shares the costs for developing and using it. Die Infoterra GmbH, a subsidiary company founded specifically for this purpose by Astrium, is responsible for marketing the data commercially.

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