TerraSAR-X & PAZ ConstellationNew Radar Satellite Constellation Improves Coverage and Access
Astrium GEO-Information and Hisdesat, the Spanish government satellite service operator, have signed a framework agreement for a joint technology development project that aims to establish a constellation approach with the TerraSAR-X and PAZ radar satellites.
The German TerraSAR-X satellite was launched in 2007 and reliably delivers high-resolution radar data for versatile applications to customers around the world. PAZ is the first Spanish radar satellite designed as a dual-use mission to meet operational requirements, mainly of a defence and security nature, but also high-resolution civil applications.
PAZ is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2013 into a polar orbit specifically optimised to improve temporal resolution over key areas of interest when operating TerraSAR-X and PAZ as a constellation.
Combining Existing Missions into a Constellation
The agreement between Astrium and Hisdesat defines the joint development and coordination of their space, ground and service segments. The two satellite operators will establish interfaces enabling them to have a system overview of both satellites’ tasking plans and establish simplified data ordering and delivery procedures. The owner companies of the respective systems will retain complete control of their satellites, while being able to better coordinate acquisition planning and satellite tasking.
The cooperation will include the development of an aligned tasking approach for the two missions, harmonised ground segment operation, an integrated processor for both satellites as well as complementary order and delivery interfaces. The agreement also envisions joint marketing of products and services generated by the constellation approach.
Improved Revisit and Acquisition Capabilities
Operating the two virtually identical satellites will afford Astrium and Hisdesat more efficient and flexible management of system capacity. Both companies will be able to offer their customers and partners enhanced performance and services levels. The key advantages of the TerraSAR-X / PAZ constellation will be:
- Shorter revisit times
- Increased data acquisition capacities
- Improved service reliability
Shorter revisit times and increased capacity will provide improved levels of responsiveness and acquisition opportunities worldwide. The constellation will offer improved InSAR capabilities for precise monitoring and detection of faster surface-movement activities.
The constellation approach will also provide improved system redundancy and back-up for both satellites during maintenance phases.
A wide range of time-critical and data-intensive applications will benefit from this constellation approach. The new TerraSAR-X / PAZ constellation will support reliable and rapid change-detection and monitoring applications:
- Military and security operations will have access to substantiated ground information for mission management and will be able to react rapidly to new developments on the ground. Reduced lead times and reliable, faster coverage of critical AoIs and hot spots will support operational missions worldwide.
- Surface-movement monitoring applications, which are already performed on the basis of highly accurate TerraSAR-X data today, will be enhanced thanks to the improved revisit times. This will enable engineering and mining companies to efficiently monitor and manage their operations and avoid damage to infrastructure and human lives.
- Enhanced revisit times and acquisition capacities support maritime surveillance applications including ship detection, oil-pollution monitoring and sea ice observation.
With easy access to data from the high-resolution radar satellites, humanitarian organisations and crisis intervention will have faster and secure access to data over affected areas to support efficient coordination and management of rescue activities.
The PAZ (Spanish for “peace”) satellite will be launched in early 2013 into the same orbit as TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X. PAZ is a dual-use mission designed to meet operational requirements, mainly of a defence and security nature but also with high-resolution civil applications.
The satellite structure is based on the TerraSAR-X satellite and was integrated by Astrium’s Friedrichshafen site in Germany, with the radar instrument being developed and integrated at the company’s Barajas facility. PAZ will be owned and operated by Hisdesat, which also holds the commercial exploitation rights for the mission. INTA, the Spanish Aerospace Technology Institute, is commissioned to develop and operate the satellites’ ground segment.
PAZ is the first Spanish radar satellite developed and implemented by the Spanish Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism as part of the National Earth Observation Programme (PNOT). The second satellite in this programme is INGENIO, an optical Earth-observation satellite mainly intended to serve civil purposes. The programme will give Spain a fully independent operational satellite remote-sensing capability.
The TerraSAR-X Earth-observation satellite is a joint venture carried out under a public-private-partnership between the German Aerospace Centre DLR and EADS Astrium GmbH.
At DLR, a team of four institutes is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the space agency. EADS Astrium GmbH developed, built and launched the satellite; the exclusive commercial exploitation rights are held by the geo-information service provider Infoterra GmbH, an Astrium subsidiary.
TerraSAR-X was launched in mid-2007 and has been in operational service since January 2008. As of June 2010, its "twin" TanDEM-X joined it in orbit. Together, the two satellites are collecting data for a global elevation model.