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German satellite blasts off to create new 3-D earth model

The Local · 21 Jun 2010, 12:12

Published: 21 Jun 2010 12:12 GMT+02:00

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The 1.3-tonne TanDEM-X , which stands for “TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement,” lifted off attached to a Russian Dnepr rocket at 8:14 am local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It delivered its first signal to a ground station in the Antarctic some 30 minutes later, the DLR said in a statement.

The 3-D elevation model of the earth created by the “key German project” will be an "indispensable aid for a great many scientific and commercial avenues of enquiry," said DLR Chairman Dr. Johann-Dietrich Wörner at the launch event at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen.

The new spacecraft will fly in tandem with the TerraSAR-X satellite, in space since 2007, to survey the entire 150 million square kilometres of the earth’s surface several times.

The twin satellites will send microwave pulses to the planet’s surface, measuring height differences based on how long the signals take to bounce back.

"This will be the first time we will ever have had a globally standardised 3D digital elevation model of Earth, and with a measuring point density of 12 metres, it will be incredibly accurate," said Prof. Dr Alberto Moreira, Science Director of the TanDEM-X mission.

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The model will be useful for a number of applications such as locating natural resources, relief planning in natural disasters and military deployments, in addition to improved navigation capabilities.

Processing for the expected 15 terabytes of data will take place at TanDEM-X stations in Sweden, Canada and the Antarctic over the course of four years, the DLR said. When completed it will be the world’s first 3-D digital elevation model of the earth.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:20 June 21, 2010 by Celeon
The russian space agency saves a lot of money by converting former ICBMs into satellite payload rockets.

The Dnepr is a converted SS-18 "Satan" ICBM belonging to the R-36 family which is built since 1967.
15:44 June 21, 2010 by Henckel
That was also true of the early American launch vehicles -- Redstone, Atlas, Titan, etc., were all converted ballistic missiles. In fact, American aerospace research began with captured German V2s.
18:03 June 21, 2010 by Beachrider
This activity is analogous to the Google-street stuff. Google had to denature some data to preserve privacy compliance. I remember the uproar over their accumulation (but not publication) of images and signals that they got from the streets.
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