Germany Tweaks Radar Satellite To Double Its Field of View

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PARIS — The German Aerospace Center, DLR, on Aug. 30 said it had begun operating the 6-year-old TerraSAR-X radar Earth observation satellite in a new observing mode that captures images with a 200-kilometer swath.

Up to now, the TerraSAR-X viewing modes had a maximum of 100 kilometers in width. The new Wide-ScanSAR mode, with a ground resolution of 40 meters, will be of use to oceanographers and others monitoring ocean wave patterns, ice floes and shipping movements, DLR said.

The Wide-ScanSAR images are taken “by sweeping [an] area in multiple stages, very quickly pivoting the radar beam numerous times across the direction of flight,” DLR TerraSAR Mission Manager Stefan Buckreuss said in a statement.

TerraSAR-X, financed in part by Astrium Services of Germany, which sells imagery worldwide from TerraSAR-X and its twin, TanDEM-X, was designed to operate for five years in a near-polar orbit some 515 kilometers in altitude. It was launched in June 2007.

DLR now estimates that the satellite’s health is sufficient to continue full operations “at least until 2015.” TanDEM-X was launched two years after TerraSAR-X and is also healthy in orbit.

Astrium GmbH of Munich will be building a successor radar Earth observation satellite by finding synergies between the construction of this commercial spacecraft and Astrium’s construction of a German military reconnaissance radar satellite under contract to OHB AG of Bremen, Germany.

DLR will not be co-investing with Astrium in the next-generation TerraSAR-X, however.