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TerraSAR-X Exceeds all Expectations

Only the most optimistic engineers had even dared to hope what is now a reality: just four days after the German radar satellite TerraSAR-X has been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the first brilliant satellite images have been received.

  • German radar satellite transmits first data in record time
  • Ground station receives first images only five days after launch
  • Scientists and commercial users are enthusiastic

Only the most optimistic engineers had even dared to hope what is now a reality: just four days after the German radar satellite TerraSAR-X has been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the first brilliant satellite images have been received.

There was loud cheering among the TerraSAR-X teams of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Astrium and Infoterra on Tuesday evening, when – only 30 minutes after the data had been received by the ground station in Neustrelitz – the first images appeared on the monitors at the DLR space centre in Oberpfaffenhofen. Although the satellite will only reach its final orbital position in ten days’ time, these data – recorded for test purposes only – already display a remarkably high quality and level of detail.

“I’m delighted! This national mission once more bears testimony to Germany’s leading international position in radar remote sensing. Our data will be an important source of information for both geoscience research and commercial applications. And TerraSAR-X will also play a key role in Europe’s GMES Earth observation programme,” says Professor Johann-Dietrich Wörner, chairman of the DLR.

“These data not only prove the comprehensive technical know-how and long-standing experience of Astrium GmbH in the development and construction of radar satellites and instruments, but also confirm our successful partnership with the DLR,” stresses Uwe Minne, Director Earth observation and Science of Astrium GmbH.

“These first images impressively demonstrate the capabilities of the satellite system —our commercial business couldn’t be based on a better foundation,” rejoices Jörg Herrmann, managing director of Infoterra GmbH, which will now advance the commercial marketing of the TerraSAR-X data.

Over the next few months, the DLR’s TerraSAR-X team will be working dedicatedly towards completing the calibration of the radar instrument and optimising the data processing chain.

The TerraSAR-X Earth observation satellite is a joint venture being carried out under a public-private-partnership between the DLR and Astrium GmbH. At the DLR, a team of four institutes is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the space agency. Thus, DLR covers the whole range of technologies required, from the original design and mission control to the processing and scientific exploitation of the data obtained. Astrium GmbH developed, built and launched the satellite; the exclusive commercial exploitation rights are held by the geo-information service provider Infoterra GmbH (Friedrichshafen).

About Astrium

Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, specialises in civil and military space systems and space-based services. In 2006, Astrium achieved revenues of 3.2 billion euros and employed approximately 11,000 people in France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The company’s core business is divided into three areas: the two business units Astrium Space Transportation (for launch vehicles and space infrastructures) and Astrium Satellites (for satellites and ground segments), and the wholly owned subsidiary Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite-based services.
EADS is one of the world’s leading suppliers of aerospace and defence systems and all associated services. In 2006, the company’s revenues amounted to around 39.4 billion euros, with a workforce of more than 116,000 employees.

About Infoterra

Infoterra GmbH, Germany, was founded in 2001 for the commercial exploitation of the TerraSAR-X data. The company is responsible not only for the commercial distribution of the data, but for the development and marketing of derived geo-information products and services as well.
Infoterra GmbH employs a workforce of 40 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and is part of the Infoterra Group, which comprises companies in France, Germany and the United Kingdom with over 300 employees and a turnover of more than 50 Mio Euro.

About DLR

DLR is the national aerospace research center of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development activities in the aerospace, transportation and energy sectors are embedded in national and international cooperation ventures. In addition to its own in-house research, the DLR, acting as the Space Agency of the Federal Government, is responsible for planning and implementing Germany’s astronautical activities as well as for representing the country’s interests on the international plane. Furthermore, DLR is the apex organization for Germany’s largest project management agency.
DLR employs a staff of about 5,100 at its 27 institutes and facilities distributed over eight locations, namely Köln-Porz, Berlin-Adlershof, Bonn-Oberkassel, Braunschweig, Göttingen, Lampoldshausen, Oberpfaffenhofen and Stuttgart. It maintains branch offices at Brussels, Paris and Washington, DC.


Dr. Niklas Reinke, + 49 (0) 228 447 394Astrium
Mathias Pikelj+49 (0) 7545 8 91 23Infoterra
Mareike Doepke+49 (0) 7545 8 3924


Note to the editors: Video-Footage and Sound-bites in broadcast quality you can download from

TerraSAR-X at a glance

Height 4.88m
Diameter 2.4m
Launch mass 1,230kg
of which payload approx. 400kg
Radar frequency 9.65 GHz
Power consumption 800 Watt (average)
Resolution 1m, 3m, 16m (depending on image size)
Launch vehicle Dnepr 1 (former SS-18)
Launch 15 June 2007, 04:14h CEST (08:14h local)
Launch site Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Orbit altitude 514km
Tilt angle towards equator 97.4° (Sun-synchronous)
Life time at least 5 years

TerraSAR-X is the first German satellite implemented in a so-called Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between DLR and Astrium: Europe’s leading satellite specialist. Astrium contributes to the costs of development, construction and deployment of the spacecraft. The scientific exploitation of TerraSAR-X data is the responsibility of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), while Infoterra GmbH, a subsidiary of Astrium, is responsible for commercial marketing. Surrounding the Earth on a polar orbit at an altitude of 514 kilometres, TerraSAR-X − with its active antenna − will collect new-quality X-band radar data of the entire planet. TerraSAR-X operates independent of weather conditions, cloud cover and illumination and will be capable of delivering radar data with a resolution of up to one metre.

Russia – Landscape West of Wolgograd

The first TerraSAR-X image delivered by DLR’s processing system captures a region in Southern Russia; about 500 km northeast of the Black Sea and 50 km west of Wolgograd.

The upper part of the image displays the Tsimlyanskoye reservoir, which retains the river Don for purposes of energy generation.

A railway bridge across the river Don can be made out in the middle/left of the image, with the railway tracks clearly visible running in a north-eastern direction.

The lower part of the image is dominated by large agricultural areas. The variations in colours of the different fields reflects the different crops and growth stages.

Image sources: DLR, Infoterra
Acquisition date: 19. June, 2007, 15 :03 :24 UTC
Resolution: degraded to approx. 15 m
Mode: Stripmap Mode; Polarisation: HH
Incidence angle: 51,7 degrees; Orbit 69; ascending

Norway – Islands

The island of Vanna, captured in the center of the image, is located in Northern Norway, about 250 km southwest of the North Cape. The mountainous topography of this island is displayed very well through the side-looking radar; however, it is slightly geometrically distorted – an effect which can be eliminated.

A close look allows for the recognition of boats, as well as houses, displayed as light dots along the coastline.

Image sources: DLR, Infoterra
Acquisition date: 20. June, 2007, 05 :32 :50 UTC
Resolution: degraded to approx. 15 m
Mode: Stripmap Mode; Polarisation: HH
Incidence angle: 32 degrees, Orbit 78; ascending