Japan's ALOS in orbit: ESA will deliver its data to European researchers

24 January 2006
ALOS, Japan’s latest Earth Observation
satellite, was successfully launched at 02:33 CET (10:33 Japan time) on
24 January. Environmental data and imagery from ALOS will be provided
to European and African users through a cooperative agreement between
ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The Advanced Land Observing Satellite
(ALOS) is a four-tonne satellite dedicated to land-based Earth
Observation. It was lifted-off from the Tanegashima Space Centre on an
H-IIA launch vehicle, which will deliver ALOS into a 700-km polar
ESA is supporting ALOS as a ‘Third Party
Mission’, which means the Agency will utilise its multi-mission ground
systems of existing national and industrial facilities and expertise to
acquire, process and distribute data from the satellite. Based on a
Memorandum of Understanding with JAXA, approved at ESA Council in
December and now ready for signature, ESA will host the ALOS European
Data Node (ADEN), delivering near-real time and offline data to
scientific and operational users across Europe as well as Africa.
ALOS Data Nodes Global ALOS Data Nodes
ALOS has multiple objectives: to support improved cartography,
especially within the Asia-Pacific region, to gather environmental
observations in support of sustainable development efforts, to survey
natural resources, to develop technologies for further Earth
Observation missions and to monitor disasters on a worldwide basis ?±
JAXA having signed the International Charter on Major Disasters in
February 2005.
The satellite carries a payload of three instruments: the Phased Array
type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR), a microwave radar
instrument that can acquire observations during both day and night and
through any weather conditions; the Panchromatic Remote-sensing
Instrument of Stereo Mapping (PRISM) which can observe selected areas
in three dimensions, down to a high 2.5-metre spatial resolution; and
the Advanced Visible and Near Infrared Radiometer type-2 (AVNIR-2),
designed to chart land cover and vegetation in visible and near
infrared spectral bands.
Observing in L-band wavelength, PALSAR
will complement ESA radar instruments currently flying on ERS-2 and
Envisat operating in C-band wave, and the European national missions
TerraSAR-X and Cosmo SkyMed, operating in the even shorter X-band.
Regarding optical sensors, the very high resolution together with the
stereo mapping and DEM generation capability of PRISM will be
particularly valuable. AVNIR-2 will provide in addition high resolution
multispectral imagery for use in local to regional studies,
complementing the optical data from medium resolution instruments
currently available from ESA.
Following launch, a nine month
commissioning phase will begin, with products set to be available to
users from November 2006. ALOS data will be made available at
conditions similar to those of ERS and Envisat missions, namely for
scientific ‘Category-1’ use as well as commercial applications.
An ESA Announcement of Opportunity for
scientific use of ALOS data has already received almost 150 proposals
which are currently undergoing evaluation by scientific experts from
ESA Member States and JAXA.
Operational and commercial users will be
able to receive ALOS data via commercial distribution schemes. ALOS
data will also be available for Global Monitoring for Environment and
Security (GMES), the joint initiative by ESA and the European Union to
develop an independent environmental monitoring capability for Europe.
(Credits ESA
Author: EARSC

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