Astrium, Spain Plan Radar Satellite Constellation

By on Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Astrium Services and Hisdesat, the Spanish government satellite service operator, have signed a framework agreement for a joint technology development project with the aim of establishing a constellation approach for the radar satellites TerraSAR-X and PAZ.

The German satellite TerraSAR-X, launched in 2007, reliably delivers high-resolution radar data for versatile applications to worldwide customers. PAZ is the first Spanish radar satellite designed as a dual use (military and civilian) mission to meet operational requirements in the field of high resolution (up to 1 meter) observation. PAZ is scheduled for launch in 2013 into a polar orbit, which will be specifically optimised to improve the time to get images over key areas of interest when combining TerraSAR-X and PAZ into a constellation.

Operating these two virtually identical satellites in a constellation will afford Astrium and Hisdesat with a more flexible capacity management of their systems. The company’s customers and partners will benefit from enhanced performance and service levels thanks to improved revisit time, service reliability and increased data acquisition capabilities.

The constellation approach will also provide improved system redundancy and back-up for both satellites in case of maintenance phases.

A wide range of time-critical and data-intensive applications will benefit from this constellation approach, such as precise monitoring and faster detection of surface movement activities:

  • Defence and security: reduced lead times and a reliable, faster coverage of critical areas of interest and hot spots will facilitate improved support to operational missions worldwide.
  • Surface movement monitoring: engineering and mining companies will be able to efficiently monitor and manage their operations and reduce risks to workers on the ground.
  • Maritime surveillance: applications such as ship detection, oil pollution monitoring and sea ice observation will benefit from improved revisit times and increased data acquisition capabilities.
  • Humanitarian organisations and crisis intervention: faster and assured access to data over the affected areas supporting the efficient coordination and management of rescue and relief activities.

The PAZ (Spanish for “peace”) satellite will be launched in 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 defense and security nature but also with civil applications in the field of high resolution observation.

The satellite structure is based on TerraSAR-X satellite and was integrated by Astrium’s Friedrichshafen site in Germany, with the radar instrument being developed and integrated at Astrium’s Barajas site in Spain, the prime contractor of the satellite. PAZ will be owned and operated by Hisdesat, who also holds the commercial exploitation rights for the mission. INTA (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 TerraSAR-X Earth observation satellite is a joint venture carried out under a public-private-partnership between the German Aerospace Center DLR and Astrium GmbH.

At DLR, a team of four institutes is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the space agency. Astrium GmbH developed, built and launched the satellite. The exclusive commercial exploitation rights are held by Astrium Services’ Geo-Information division (formerly known as Infoterra GmbH).

TerraSAR-X was launched in mid-2007 and has been in operational service since January 2008. As of June 2010, its “twin” TanDEM-X has joined it in orbit. Together, the two satellites are collecting data for a global elevation model.

Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Astrium had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Astrium is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.

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