Airbus Defence and Space

TanDEM-X – Mapping the Earth in 3D

  • Airbus Defence and Space satellite complete and ready for launch campaign

  • High-tech radar product scheduled for launch on 21 June 2010


Munich/Friedrichshafen, 29 April 2010 – The German radar satellite TanDEM-X, built by Airbus Defence and Space, has proven its suitability for operation in space in a series of special tests at IABG in Ottobrunn, near Munich. On 11 May, the satellite will leave Germany from Munich airport and head to the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan. Lift-off aboard a Russian Dnepr launcher is scheduled for 21 June 2010.  As with the TerraSAR-X 'sister mission', the TanDEM-X project has been implemented through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Airbus Defence and Space GmbH.


Together with the almost identical TerraSAR-X satellite, which has been operational since 2007, TanDEM-X will generate a digital elevation model of the Earth's landmasses in unprecedented quality over the course of three years. For this purpose, TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X form a radar interferometer: The satellites fly in close formation at a distance of only a few hundred metres, thus enabling simultaneous terrain images from different perspectives. The two satellites are scheduled to measure the complete land surface of the Earth (150 million square kilometres). For a 12-metre grid (street width), height information can be determined with an accuracy of less than two metres.


IABG has conducted extensive tests to prove the satellite's suitability for operation in space. The testing programme covered electromagnetic compatibility, thermal-vacuum tests including sun simulation, vibration tests, acoustic tests and the determination of the satellite's mass properties. A special feature during the test campaign was the so-called 'Boom-Release Test' investigating the shock loads in the satellite which were caused by unfolding its antenna in space. The qualification tests were conducted at IABG’s space centre in Ottobrunn, one of the ESA-coordinated test centres.


The PPP agreement between Airbus Defence and Space and DLR defines TanDEM-X funding and data utilisation. Thus, the partners jointly finance the satellite at a total cost of approximately  €85 million:  € 59 million will be provided by DLR and €26 million by Airbus Defence and Space. Furthermore, DLR develops 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 the adaptation of the elevation model to the needs of commercial users and for its world-wide marketing.


The decisive advantage of satellite-based Earth measurement is the generation of a globally consistent and homogeneous elevation model with no discontinuity at regional or national borders and no inhomogeneities resulting from different measurement procedures and measurement campaigns staggered in time. 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 currently unparalleled and is of particular interest to the USA. TanDEM-X is a key project for demonstrating, safeguarding and extending Germany’s competence and competitiveness in the field of satellite-based radar technology.


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


Similar to TerraSAR-X, the 'sister satellite' of TanDEM-X, the commercial exploitation of data and derived products is part of the PPP agreement between Airbus Defence and Space and DLR. Infoterra GmbH, an Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary, founded in 2001 for commercial TerraSAR-X marketing, will also be responsible for providing new TanDEM-X-based height information to its customers all over the world.


Since the commencement of TerraSAR-X's operational service in early 2008, Infoterra has been able to establish a solid position on the global market for Earth observation data and services and has set up a distribution network with more than 50 partners in 33 countries. This promising business basis will also be used to successfully market the TanDEM-X data and products.


The fields of application are versatile and range from an increased efficiency in the production of oil, gas or minerals, improved crisis mission planning, prediction of the impacts of disaster situations to a more specific preparation of defence and security missions. First and foremost, in many countries all over the world, cartographers will be able to obtain improved height information – thanks to this more precise and current data source.



Press contact:  

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space GB)                                          Phone: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180

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

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

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                     Phone: +34 (0) 91 586 37 41 


Andreas Schütz            (German Aerospace Center, DLR)         Phone: +49 (0) 30 6705 5 474


     About TanDEM-X 


TanDEM-X will be implemented in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Airbus Defence and Space GmbH with funds from the German Ministry of Industry and Technology (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie).


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 identical construction which has been in orbit since 15 June 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 mission. 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 2009, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.8 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 provision of secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, geo-information products and services, and navigation services.


AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119, 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. DLR functions as an umbrella organisation for Germany's largest project sponsor.

Approximately 6,500 people are employed at 13 locations: Cologne (headquarters), Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Göttingen, Hamburg, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stuttgart, Trauen and Weilheim. DLR also operates offices in Brussels, Paris and Washington, D.C.