Launched on June 21st of this year, the first images from TanDEM-X have been acquired and processed 3.5 days post launch. As the name implies, the goal of TanDEM-X (which stands for TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) is to generate a high-accuracy global Digital Elevation Model (DEM).
The scientific use of the data can be divided into 3 areas: new quality Digital Elevation Models (e.g. for hydrology), along-track interferometry (e.g. measurement of ocean currents) and new bi-static applications (e.g. polarimetric SAR interferometry). The potential for commercial applications arises from the increase in the efficiency of the TerraSAR-X data production chain, high quality and efficient cartographic capability, as well as implementation of experimental modes and services.
The newly launched satellite will meet up with another SAR satellite, TerraSAR-X in order to fly in a tandem orbit configuration. While TanDEM-X is en-route to meet up with TerraSAR-X, test images are being transmitted. DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt), the German space agency, hosts a blog where updates on the progress of TanDEM-X are also posted in English.
The first sample images can be accessed from the infoterra web site. The first geographic locations captured were of Madagascar, Moscow, and the Ukraine. Once the TanDEM-X satellite meets up with TerraSar-X then the two satellites will work in conjunction to produce high resolution DEMs of the earth’s surface. The first datas is expected in January of 2011.