Biomass Forest Monitoring Satellite For ESA To Be Built By Airbus Defence and Space

First Posted: May 11, 2016 05:42 AM EDT

Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Airbus Group, has won a $260 million contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to construct the Biomass satellite, its next Earth Explorer mission. Biomass is going to be launched in 2021 and will access terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes for five years by measuring forest biomass.

"It is fantastic news for the UK space industry, building on the experience and capabilities of missions such as Sentinel-5 Precursor, Solar Orbiter and Lisa Pathfinder," said Colin Paynter of Airbus Defence and Space Ltd. The spacecraft will have the first space borne P-band Synthetic Aperature Radar (SAR) onboard, which will deliver boreal forest biomass, temperate and tropical maps that cannot be obtained by ground technique methods. The spacecraft will use the AstroBus-Medium satellite frame from Airbus.

According to the report published by Airbus Defence and Space, the mission will gather continual data on global forests to estimate the distribution of above ground biomass in these areas, and accordingly measure annual changes. The mission, which will be five years in duration, will see a minimum of eight growth cycles in our planet's forests.

The use of P-band SAR will enable the mission to take the help of all weather imaging from space to calculate forest biomass. The satellite will also enable the measurement of paleo aquifers in desert areas to search for new water sources in arid regions, as well as observe the dynamics of ice sheets, forest topography and subsurface geology. The Biomass satellite will be able to improve present digital elevation models in dense forests by providing terrain height maps.  Incidentally, the biomass forest monitoring spacecraft will weight 1,250-kilogram.

The biomass data will also support a UN climate change project, called REDD+, which looks at emission reductions caused by deforestation. The satellite will keep a careful and systematic watch over forests in vulnerable areas without requiring ground intervention.

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