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Contract seals deal for Biomass satellite’s ride into space

28 October 2019

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ESA and Arianespace have signed a contract that secures the launch of the Earth Explorer Biomass satellite. With liftoff scheduled for 2022 on a Vega launch vehicle from French Guiana, this new mission is another step closer to mapping the amount of carbon stored in forests and how it changes over time though deforestation, for example.

Other satellites can measure how much of Earth's surface is covered by trees, but the Biomass mission takes forest counting to a new level by using a type of instrument that has never before been flown in space: a ‘P-band' synthetic aperture radar.

P-band is the longest radar wavelength available to Earth observation. From over 650 km above, it will be able to ‘see' through the leafy forest canopy and measure the height of forest. This information that can be used to work out how much biomass – a proxy for carbon – is being stored in forests.

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