Oberpfaffenhofen, March 30, 2022. The countdown has begun, with only a few days to go before the launch of the first German hyperspectral mission EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program). The lift off from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, United States, is scheduled for 18:24 hours German summer time. EnMAP will be carried on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and placed in a solar-synchronous orbit around the Earth at an altitude of around 650 kilometers in order to show us the world in all its colors and beyond.
New era in Earth observation
The highly complex instrument fitted to the Earth observation satellite was developed and built at the OHB Space Center “Optics and Science” in Oberpfaffenhofen on behalf of the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and marks an engineering pinnacle: “EnMAP will show us the world in a way we have not seen before. EnMAP is ushering in a completely new era in Earth observation in Germany. I am very proud that we have managed to complete this ambitious project together with our partner DLR. We are all looking forward to receiving the first data and images that our satellite sends to us,” says Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB System AG. “The findings of the EnMAP mission will provide a very important tool for protecting the environment and combating climate change.”
“With the launch of EnMAP, Germany is making an exceptionally important contribution to climate protection. The path we have taken for this was extremely important in order to demonstrate the capabilities of German space science and industry. The mission called for new developments in many areas at the limit of what is technically feasible. The end result was a satellite that benefits all humanity. This is because, for example, EnMAP data can help to sustainably improve agricultural yields and thus ensure reliable supplies of food for a growing world population,” says Walther Pelzer, a member of the DLR Executive Board and head of the German Space Agency at DLR.
Launch preparations running smoothly
The preparations and tests for the journey into space are running successfully and according to plan. The high-tech environmental observer EnMAP was fueled and placed in hibernation before being mounted on the rideshare stack, where it is well protected by the outer shell or fairing of the rocket, which is subsequently put in place. This payload peak has been crowning the launcher since 29 March. The general rehearsal of the launch countdown was completed without any problems at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen, with the EnMAP team in Cape Canaveral participating from the SpaceX Launch and Landing Control Center. The date for the launch of the satellite is now close.
“Our satellite passed all the tests and activities during the launch preparations with flying colors, so we can look forward to another capable and reliable OHB satellite going into operation! Our team has also shown great commitment and pragmatism here in Cape Canaveral. Now we are placing our trust in the excellent engineering skills and the specialists of SpaceX, secure in the knowledge that they will take our “baby” safely into space. Only then will OHB go back into operation by supporting DLR from the control room during the first phase of the satellite’s life in space,” reports OHB project manager Peter Honold at Cape Canaveral.
What will EnMAP see?
EnMAP’s “eyes” will actually see more than we can perceive with our eyes as the satellite carries a hyperspectral instrument that has two imaging spectrometers with a total of 242 recording bands in a wavelength range from 420 to 2,450 nanometers. The spectral resolution is 6.5 nanometers in the visible and near-infrared range and 10 nanometers in the short-wave infrared range. This will allow the satellite to record the solar radiation reflected off the earth’s surface in continuous spectra ranging from visible light to the short-wave infrared segment.
The scientific community around the world, and particularly GeoForschungszentrum (GFZ) in Potsdam, which holds the scientific leadership of the mission, is eagerly awaiting the launch of EnMAP: The hyperspectral data can show, for example, what minerals or pollutants are present in a given area, whether plants have an adequate supply of nutrients or whether a body of water is contaminated with pollutants.
Note: Track the launch live on April 1, 2022
The launch of the satellite with SpaceX will be reported live on the Internet. In cooperation with Phoenix and SpaceX, the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will be streaming live coverage. The program is scheduled to start at 17:25 hours German summer time. Link to the stream.
EnMAP – the German environmental mission and its partners
The EnMAP environmental mission is being lead-managed by the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Bonn on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). OHB-System AG was awarded the contract for developing and engineering the satellite and the hyperspectral instrument. The mission is under the scientific direction of GeoForschungszentrum Potsdam (GFZ).
Three DLR institutes and facilities have been tasked with constructing and operating the ground segment: the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen will be carrying out and monitoring satellite operations, while the German Remote Sensing Data Center and the Remote Sensing Technology Institute will be responsible for archiving, processing and validating the satellite data and making it available for scientific research. Companies and government agencies will also be testing the data and preparing future services. The future use of EnMAP hyperspectral data by universities and scientific institutions and the development of special applications will be supported by funding programs initiated by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Action (BMWK).