Two TU Delft proposals chosen to compete in ESA Earth Explorer mission

News - 26 September 2018 - Communication

TU Delft has provided two of the three proposals that are competing for the tenth Earth Explorer mission by ESA, which is planned for 2027-2028. The Earth Explorer missions are aimed at Earth observation, one of the important aims of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The proposals include measuring motion of the sea surface, glaciers and the Earth's surface, and being better able to forecast how much precipitation will fall during violent storms. Feasibility studies will be conducted during the next few years, after which one of the three missions will be selected for implementation and launch.


A total of 21 Earth observation proposals were submitted for the tenth ESA Earth Explorer mission. The space organisation selected three of these ideas for the next phase, two of which came from TU Delft's Satellite Radar Lab. "The three ideas are all technologically innovative and have great potential. We look forward to seeing how these concepts develop during the next phase", says Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes.


TU Delft says both Satellite Radar Lab ideas are new concepts that will fundamentally change our earth observation capacities. During the next two to four years, the current mission ideas will need to be worked out into detailed mission proposals. This effort will involve intense collaboration with industrial and scientific partners across Europe, and provide a major stimulus for TU Delft's Satellite Radar Lab over the coming years.


The first mission, STEREOID, is a proposal led by Dr Paco Lopez-Dekker, and its goal is to measure small-scale motions of the ocean surface, volume changes in glaciers and ice-sheets and 3-D deformation of the Earth's surface. This would improve our understanding of small-scale ocean processes, glacial dynamics and their contribution to sea-level rise, and 3D modelling of deformations caused by earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides. In STEREOID, two passive radar satellites fly in a variable formation together with one of the existing Sentinel-1 satellites.


Professor Ramon Hanssen is involved in the second mission, G-CLASS, in which a large area of Europe and Africa would be constantly monitored from a high geosynchronous radar satellite. This would enable meteorologists to more accurately forecast how much precipitation will fall in violent storms, so that better flood development predictions can be made. The mission uses technology proposed by Hanssen in 1999. It also enables landslides to be predicted in real-time.

Both of these cases involve as yet undeveloped concepts that can fundamentally change our Earth observation capacities. Professor Susan Steele-Dunne of the Satellite Radar Lab also sees new opportunities for monitoring soil moisture and hydrological processes.

The third project selected is called Daedalus and involves instruments to provide measurements in the largely unexplored area between the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere and space.