Paris (ESA), France, Feb 20, 2015-Following the initial selection in 2013 for Biomass to become ESA's seventh Earth Explorer mission and the completion of preparatory activities, ESA Member States yesterday gave the green light, on February 19, for its full implementation for launch in 2020.
The mission addresses one of the most fundamental components in the Earth system: the status and dynamics of tropical forests. Its primary scientific objectives are to determine the distribution of above-ground biomass in these forests and to measure annual changes in this stock over the period of the mission.
The amount of biomass and forest height will be measured at a resolution of 200 m, and forest disturbances such as clear-cutting at a resolution of 50 m, providing an important tool for sustainable forest management. Studying the world's tropical biomass is key to our understanding Earth's climate.
The mission will provide the first opportunity to explore Earth's surface at the 'P-band' radar frequency from space.
In addition to studying forests, the data are expected to be used for monitoring the ionosphere, glaciers and ice sheets, and for mapping subsurface geology in deserts and surface topography below dense vegetation.