Airbus Defence and Space

Construction completed on TanDEM-X radar satellite

Friedrichshafen, 09 June 2009 – The German radar satellite TanDEM-X has been successfully completed by the space company Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen. The satellite has been developed in conjunction with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).


  •  Testing to be undertaken in Munich - Launch from Baikonur in October
  • Mapping of the Earth with innovative radar interferometer 
  • High-precision digital elevation model available as of 2012 


Next week, the satellite, which is five metres long and weighs 1.3 tonnes, will be transported to Ottobrunn near Munich where it will undergo testing at Airbus Defence and Space’s and IABG’s test facilities. TamDEM-X will remain there until mid-September, where final checks will be conducted ahead of launch. It will then be transported to the Baikonur space centre (Kazakhstan) with lift-off aboard a Russian Dnepr launcher scheduled for October.

 TanDEM-X will fly in tandem formation with the identical TerraSAR-X satellite for a period of two years, generating a digital elevation model of the Earth's land masses. By flying in close formation at distances of just a few kilometres to 200 metres apart, both satellites form a radar interferometer. Through this process the satellites will be able to provide radar images of unprecedented quality over the coming years.

As with the TerraSAR-X 'sister mission', the TanDEM-X project was implemented in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between Airbus Defence and Space GmbH and DLR. The PPP agreement provides TanDEM-X funding and data utilisation. Thus, the partners (DLR and Airbus Defence and Space) jointly financed the satellite to the total of approximately €85 million: €59 million was provided by DLR and €26 million by Airbus Defence and Space. Furthermore, DLR has developed the mission-relevant ground segment and is responsible for mission planning and implementation, as well as for the control of both satellites and the generation of the digital elevation model. Data exploitation for scientific purposes is coordinated by the DLR institute for high-frequency technology and radar systems. Infoterra GmbH (Friedrichshafen), a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space, is exclusively responsible for commercial marketing.

With the aid of the tandem formation of TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X it will be possible to completely measure the Earth's land surface (150 million square kilometres) within a period of only three years. For a 12-metre grid (street width), height information can be determined with an accuracy of less than two metres.

The distinct advantage of satellite-based Earth measurement is the generation of a world-wide, consistent and homogeneous terrain model with no discontinuity at regional or national borders and no inhomogeneities resulting from different measurement procedures and measurement campaigns staggered in time (mosaics). The radar plays a decisive role here, since it can be operated completely independent of weather and clouds, day and night.

 This mapping procedure is unparalleled and is of particular interest to the USA. TanDEM-X is a key project for demonstrating, safeguarding and extending the German competence and competitiveness in the field of satellite-based radar technology.

As of 2012, Germany will possess a digital terrain model of the Earth – an attractive and worldwide unique data product – which, in addition to many scientific application possibilities, can be used in initiatives and programmes, such as the centre for satellite-based crisis information (ZKI - Zentrum für satellitengestützte Kriseninformation), GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) and GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems), and also in security-relevant cooperation agreements.

About TanDEM-X

The TanDEM-X project is being implemented by a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Airbus Defence and Space GmbH.

The primary goal of the TanDEM-X (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) mission is to generate a global digital elevation model. To achieve this, two satellites – TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X, a satellite of almost identical construction which has been in orbit since 2007 – will form the first configurable SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) interferometer in space with a separation of only a few hundred metres. A powerful ground segment which is closely interfaced with that of TerraSAR-X completes the TanDEM-X system. The satellites will fly in formation and operate in parallel for three years to cover the entire surface of the Earth.

DLR is responsible for the scientific exploitation of the TanDEM-X data as well as for planning and implementing the mission, controlling the two satellites and generating the digital elevation model. Airbus Defence and Space built the satellite and shares in the cost of its development and exploitation. As with TerraSAR-X, the responsibility for marketing the TanDEM-X data commercially lies in the hands of Infoterra GmbH, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space.

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2008, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.3 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment and Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2008, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €43.3 billion and employed a workforce of more than 118, 000.

About DLR

DLR is Germany's national research centre for aeronautics and space. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, transportation and energy is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. As Germany's Space Agency, the German federal government has given DLR responsibility for the forward planning and implementation of the German space programme as well as international representation of Germany's interests.

Approximately 6000 people work for DLR; the center has 29 institutes and facilities at 13 locations in Germany: Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Cologne (headquarters), Goettingen, Hamburg, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stuttgart, Trauen and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris and Washington, D.C.


Press contacts:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                            Tel. : +44 (0)1 438 77 8180 

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                  Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32 

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                         Tel.: +49 (0) 7545 8 9123

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                       Tel. : +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                     Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41

Eduard Müller (DLR)                                        Tel. : +49 (0) 2203 601 2805

Remote sensingTerraSAR-XRadar