DESIS_ISS1

ISS to monitor environmental changes on Earth after hyperspectral camera installed

Image credit: deisis

A DESIS hyperspectral camera has been installed on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) that will enable environmental monitoring of the Earth from Space.

Installed by the German Aerospace Centre (GAC), the camera has 235 spectral channels through which it can observe the planet down below and pick out changes in land and water surfaces.

“With this data, for example, we can recognise whether the plants in a field on Earth are in a state of stress at a given point in time from a distance of 400km,” said Uwe Knodt, GAC project manager.

“This will allow us to look at the world from a new perspective and thereby benefit our society through this view from space.”

Several conditions can trigger stress on a plant: insufficient nutrients, unfavourable environmental conditions and an inadequate water supply. The evaluation of DESIS hyperspectral data through sophisticated algorithms will enable useful conclusions to be drawn.

For example, farmers could benefit from this data from space by learning at an early stage whether their fields must be fertilised in a specific way and which fertiliser their plants need.

The images acquired by the DLR instrument can also provide information on the plants’ stage of life, as well as the moisture content of soil and plants.

“As a result, the global cultivation of food – and therefore the provision of food – can be optimised,” Knodt said.

In addition, the instrument can deliver information on the health of forested areas, identify the mineralogical composition of specific regions, and record the constituent elements and quality of oceans and lakes.

The instrument was installed on the exterior of the ISS last night on the MUSES platform. The speed of the images and the flexible angle for viewing Earth from space enable other applications besides resource monitoring and environmental surveillance.

These potential uses include humanitarian aid, whereby emergency rescue teams could receive valuable information from space quickly and in a timely manner in the event of a disaster.

The camera will be located on the MUSES platform for a period of five to seven years and will observe Earth around the clock.

DESIS will record Earth with a resolution of 30x30m per pixel in the visible to near-infrared spectrum. It is the first hyperspectral instrument to be installed on the ISS.

Rupert Müller at GAC’s Earth Observation Center (EOC) is responsible for the data processing. He said that interest in hyperspectral imagery is high at the moment, with countries such as Japan and Italy planning future missions with hyperspectral instruments.

Germany is also preparing such a mission with EnMAP, scheduled for launch in 2020. “Presently, the availability of hyperspectral images from space is very limited,” Müller said. “DESIS will fill this gap and continuously deliver fresh data on Earth’s dynamic processes.”

The engineers and scientists are hoping that DESIS will deliver the first images at the beginning of October 2018.

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