TanDEM-X: 10 Years of Formation Flying Bistatic SAR Interferometry

Zink M, Moreira A, Hajnsek I, Rizzoli P, Bachmann M, Kahle R, Fritz T, Huber M, Krieger G, Lachaise M, Martone M, Maurer E, Wessel B (2021)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2021


Book Volume: 14

Pages Range: 3546-3565

Article Number: 9364685

DOI: 10.1109/JSTARS.2021.3062286


On June 21, 2010, the TanDEM-X mission was launched and opened a new era in spaceborne radar remote sensing. The first formation flying radar system was built by extending the TerraSAR-X synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mission by a second, TerraSAR-X-like satellite TanDEM-X. The resulting large single-pass SAR interferometer features flexible baseline selection, enabling the acquisition of highly accurate cross-track interferograms not impacted by temporal decorrelation and atmospheric disturbances. The primary objective of the mission was the generation of a global Digital Elevation Model (DEM) with unprecedented accuracy (12-m horizontal resolution and 2-m relative height accuracy). The main mission phase for DEM data acquisition has been finished in 2014; the processing of the global TanDEM-X DEM was concluded in September 2016. The final DEM product is well within specifications and features an extremely low percentage of void areas. It is of fundamental importance for a wide range of commercial and scientific applications. But the scientific exploitation of TanDEM-X is not limited to the DEM. TanDEM-X has unique capabilities, including along-track interferometry, and new bistatic and multistatic SAR techniques, that support numerous secondary mission objectives. Indeed, some of these experiments were directly performed during the DEM acquisition phase, when suitable satellite formation geometries were available. Moreover, regular acquisitions over selected super test sites enabled multitemporal analyses. A dedicated science phase after the DEM acquisitions included up to 4 km cross-track baselines, operation in the so-called Dual-Receive Antenna mode, as well as a period in pursuit monostatic flight formation. Comparisons of the TanDEM-X DEM with that of SRTM, or among multitemporal TanDEM-X data, revealed dramatic, ongoing, changes in Earth's topography, especially over ice and forests. In the last 3.5 years the mission has further acquired data for a global change layer showing the height changes relative to the first global DEM dataset. The so-called 'Change DEM' is planned for release in 2021. Despite being well beyond their design lifetime, both satellites are still fully functional and have enough consumables for several additional years. Therefore, bistatic operations continue with a focus on changes in the cryosphere, biosphere, and densely populated urban areas.

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Zink, M., Moreira, A., Hajnsek, I., Rizzoli, P., Bachmann, M., Kahle, R.,... Wessel, B. (2021). TanDEM-X: 10 Years of Formation Flying Bistatic SAR Interferometry. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, 14, 3546-3565. https://doi.org/10.1109/JSTARS.2021.3062286


Zink, Manfred, et al. "TanDEM-X: 10 Years of Formation Flying Bistatic SAR Interferometry." IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing 14 (2021): 3546-3565.

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