The Germans are doing radar satellites right with TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X doing their thing up in space.  Over the last few months, the two satellites have gotten within 400 meters of one another and before too long, they’ll get down to about half that distance.

These are two separate satellites and the first, the TerraSAR-X launched in 2007.  Its near-twin, the TanDEM-X (the TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement, one of those groan-inducing acronyms within an acronym) launched in June 2010.  SAR, of course is for synthetic aperture radars, the X is for the x-band radar, and as you can see, the DEM is for digital elevation measurement (and also for digital elevation model).

Now, with that out-of-the-way, consider the fantastic short synopsis of their efforts at the BBC site.  Here are the Sports Center-like highlights of the highlights:

  • They will use make the most detailed ever 3D map of the Earth’s entire surface
  • Digital elevation models will be put to myriad uses for just about anything that requires vertical earth measurements
  • This operational flight profile is thought to be unique in civil space history
  • Prior to TanDEM-X, the best-known, near-global, space-borne digital elevation measurement was the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission of 2000. Its best product has a 30m by 30m spatial resolution, and a vertical resolution that varies from 16m to 10m
  • With the TanDEM-X mission, spatial resolution is planned shrink massively (oxymoron alert!!) down to 12m by 12m with a relative vertical accuracy of less than two meters

The TanDEM-X blog is quite cool as well.

  1. […] Comment No. 5: Yes, you need a precise track to radar map.  So would that be like this German robotic ground-mapping radar mission currently being done and which will result in the most detailed-ever 3D map of the earth’s surface? […]

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