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Scheduled to launch in 2020, the European Biomass mission will map biomass and forest height, as well as quantify the extent of biomass being lost each year, notably as a result of deforestation. The satellite will do a full repeat survey twice a year to better understand the role of the world’s forests in the carbon cycle and climate change. It will also collect data on Earth’s subsurface geology and on the evolution of dry and frozen regions, for example to monitor glaciers. Biomass will be carrying the first P-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to fly in space, to measure biomass in tropical, boreal and temperate forests with a resolution of 50 to 100 metres. Biomass data will also provide a first-of-a-kind 3D view of the structure of forests.
Initiated by ESA and the CESBIO biosphere research centre, a joint research unit of CNES, the French national scientific research centre CNRS, the IRD development research institute and Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, Biomass is ESA’s seventh Earth Explorer mission. Besides France’s involvement through CESBIO and 14 other national research laboratories, the German aerospace agency DLR, Italy’s Politecnico di Milano engineering school, the Swedish defence research agency FOI, the Technical University of Denmark DTU, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Virginia in the United States are also contributing to the design and development of the Biomass mission.