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Biomass (Earth Explorer 7)

Biomass [ESA]

ESA’s Earth Observation Programme Board has selected Biomass in May 2013 to become the seventh Earth Explorer mission. The innovative satellite aims to map and monitor one of Earth’s most precious resources.

The satellite will be designed to provide, for the first time from space, P-band radar measurements that are optimised to determine the amount of biomass and carbon stored in the world’s forests with greater accuracy than ever before.

This information, which is poorly known in the tropics, is essential to our understanding of the role of forests in Earth’s carbon cycle and in climate change.

Reliable knowledge of tropical forest biomass also underpins the implementation of the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative – an international effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and land degradation in developing countries.

In addition, the measurements made by Biomass offer the opportunity to map the elevation of Earth’s terrain under dense vegetation, yielding information on subsurface geology and allowing the estimation of glacier and ice-sheet velocities, critical to our understanding of ice-sheet mass loss in a warming Earth.

Biomass also has the potential to evolve into an operational system, providing long-term monitoring of forests – one of Earth’s most important natural resources. The launch of the mission is foreseen for 2020.

In May 2016, Airbus was selected to build the satellite for a launch in 2021.

Nation: Europe
Type / Application: Earth Science
Operator: ESA
Contractors: Airbus Defence and Space
Equipment: P-band radar
Configuration:
Propulsion: ?
Power: Deployable solar array, batteries
Lifetime: 5 years
Mass: 1170 kg
Orbit: 660 km SSO
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Biomass (Earth Explorer 7) - 2021 Ko ELV Vega (baselined)