The German EnMAP Satellite – Open data access for the community

EnMAPCurrently orbiting the Earth is an international collection of satellite instruments, both government and commercial, designed for measuring and observing our planet. The applications are as varied as the number of satellites, and then some, with new capabilities being developed every day. Soon to be included in this impressive mix of technology is EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program) – a new hyperspectral satellite from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) scheduled for launch in 2015.

EnMAP builds on decades of successful research by remote sensing scientists around the world in the field of hyperspectral imaging, also known as imaging spectroscopy or imaging spectrometry. Unlike traditional multispectral sensors, which measure select subsets of the electromagnetic spectrum, hyperspectral sensors provide contiguous measurements of the entire spectrum. This typically equates to measuring more than 100-200 bands, rather than the usual 4-20 bands measured by multispectral systems. As a result, hyperspectral imaging allows scientists to analyze not just individual bands, or combinations of bands, but a multi-band profile of the full spectrum. This is equivalent to analyzing a curve rather than just points on a curve, thereby providing significantly more data with which to derive information about our planet.

The EnMAP sensor will measure a total of 242 bands from 420-2450nm, at a spatial resolution (ground sampling distance) of 30m. The instrument will have a pointing range of +/- 30°, allowing greater flexibility with respect to the location on the Earth’s surface that can be measured during any particular orbit. The sensor’s swath width on the ground will be 30km, and the system will be capable of measuring 1000km of data per orbit and 5000km of data per day.

Of great significance to the scientific community is that the EnMAP mission is embracing an open data policy, which means imagery will be made freely available for scientific use. The same policy is also being used for the currently available EnMAP simulated data, which allows researchers to develop and test EnMAP applications prior to instrument launch. Another notable aspect of the mission is the creation of EnMAP-Box, a platform-independent software tool being developed specifically for processing EnMAP imagery. The software will allow users to easily visualize and process EnMAP imagery using a suite of standard algorithms, as well as incorporate new user-contributed custom processing modules. It is admirable to see this level of community involvement embedded throughout the EnMAP mission.

The 2015 launch date might seem like it’s far away, but from the perspective of a satellite mission the date is just around the corner. Go EnMAP!

For more details on the EnMAP mission:


3 thoughts on “The German EnMAP Satellite – Open data access for the community

  1. Nice article. The final launch is not really fixed. One of the most prominent benefits is the high SNR – VNIR 500 and SWIR 150 till end of life.

    • The high SNR is indeed an important characteristic of EnMAP. Thanks for pointing out that feature. And we’ll stay tuned for any future updates on the launch.

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