From The DLR German Aerospace Center [Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.](DE): “En­MAP – Ready for sci­ence”

DLR Bloc

From The DLR German Aerospace Center [Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.](DE)

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany.

On 2 November 2022, the German environmental mission EnMAP completed its test phase and entered routine operations. The mission is managed by the German Space Agency at DLR in Bonn on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.

Users can now access the constantly growing EnMAP data archive and submit observation requests. The EnMAP mission data are free of charge.

The hyperspectral data offer new insights into a wide variety of application areas.

Focus: Space, Earth observation, climate change, environmental protection and nature conservation.
Towards more sustainable agriculture

Tracking down “tell-tale methane plumes” with EnMAP

Insights into the world’s largest erosion crater

Monitoring water quality in Lake Constance from space

Towards more sustainable agriculture

Agriculture plays an important role in our society for food provision, as well as for the supply of building materials and energy. EnMAP is opening up new possibilities for precision agriculture and agricultural monitoring. The data it gathers are of high spectral resolution and contain important information about the condition and health of crops. On 28 July 2022, during its commissioning phase, EnMAP acquired an image of the northern area of Munich. Using efficient algorithms and modern machine-learning techniques, researchers from the Department of Geography at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) were able to quantify and map biophysical and biochemical plant properties over large areas for the first time. The growing world population and the simultaneous impact of agriculture on the environment, for example concerning the emission of greenhouse gases, are driving the demand for agricultural production. Against this backdrop, these new data could be used in agricultural management systems to improve resource efficiency and support the sustainability of the required yield optimization.

Tracking down ‘tell-tale’ methane plumes with EnMAP

Fossil fuel production – primarily oil and gas extraction and coal mining – is responsible for a large share of anthropogenic methane emissions. They often appear as ‘methane plumes’ emitted by point sources. These relatively small surface elements release relatively large amounts of gas, leaving a tell-tale trail in the atmosphere. If this trace is detected quickly, the cause can be removed quickly, thereby significantly reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Spaceborne imaging spectrometers such as EnMAP provide the best means of monitoring these methane emissions on a global scale and over a wide area. The potential of the German environmental mission to map these methane plumes has already been confirmed by initial measurements made during the commissioning phase. On 6 October 2022, oil and gas production basins in the south of Turkmenistan were surveyed by EnMAP. Scientists from the Research Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering (IIAMA) of the Universitat Politècnica de València have discovered several active methane point sources in this region using derived EnMAP maps showing the increase in methane concentrations.

Insights into the geology of the world’s largest erosion crater

Israel’s Negev desert is home to the world’s largest crater formed by natural erosion – Makhtesh Ramon. Over the last 220 million years, softer rocks such as sandstone have eroded away from areas of harder types such as limestone and dolomite, washing them away and creating a unique crater. This national park, which is one of the driest areas on our planet, is a reservoir for fossils, primeval volcanic cones, magma fissures and chambers and fossilized coral reefs, but above all a tremendous variety of minerals, which are deposited there in the rock. Researchers are particularly interested in the geological units including sandstone, iron-oxide-rich rocks, gypsum, limestone, dolomite, clay minerals such as the phyllosilicate kaolinite, and plutonic crystalline rock units. The sandstone and the plutonic crystalline rock units that have ‘migrated’ to the surface are visible to the naked eye. But what is hidden underneath? How much rock and minerals are stored in the rock? And how are these units distributed? EnMAP helped researchers from the Remote Sensing Laboratory at Tel-Aviv University get to the bottom of these questions.

The data from the satellite’s commissioning phase, which was processed and provided by the DLR ground segment and processed together with the GFZ, gives a good foretaste of the high quality of the data we can expect during the operational phase. The researchers were able to distinguish very precisely between different rock types, such as dolomite and limestone, and minerals, such as clays and sulphates, as well as variations within mineral types within a strip of 40 by 7 kilometres. This offered a better picture of the quantity and distribution of mapped units compared to data acquired from the air and the ground. This knowledge would not have been possible without hyperspectral EnMAP images from space.

Monitoring water quality in Lake Constance from space

Lake Constance is the largest drinking water reservoir in Europe and provides water for millions of people. But in July and August 2022, the lake reached a low point due to a long drought characteristic of the modern age of climate change. On 9 August 2022, a very low water level of only 3.05 metres was registered in Constance – only four centimetres above the seasonal record. The consequence is that shallower the water, the faster it warms up. As a result, sediments were washed up to the water surface in some places and green algae carpets formed on a vast scale.

These carpets grow particularly quickly where there are many nutrients, and the water warms up a lot. To get an overview of the excessive algae growth, EnMAP took a close look at Lake Constance and its chlorophyll-a concentration from space on 1 August 2022, during its commissioning phase. The data on this important plant pigment, evaluated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), provide information on photosynthesis and thus on algae growth. The data sets on the distribution and productivity of various phytoplankton groups acquired using the satellite are extremely valuable for monitoring the quality of inland waters and their use as a source of water and food, as well as a recreational area.

EnMAP – the German environmental mission and its partners

The EnMAP mission is being managed by the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in Bonn on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz; BMWK). OHB System AG was contracted to develop and build the satellite and the hyperspectral instruments. The GeoForschungszentrum Potsdam (GeoForschungsZentrum; GFZ) in Potsdam is the science Principal Investigator for the mission.

Three DLR institutes and facilities have been commissioned for the construction and operation of the ground segment. The German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen will conduct and monitor satellite operations, while the German Remote Sensing Data Center and the DLR Remote Sensing Technology Institute will archive, process and validate the received satellite data and make them available to the scientific community. Companies and public authorities will also test the data and use them to prepare future services. The use of EnMAP hyperspectral data by universities and scientific institutions and the development of special applications will be supported by BMWK funding programmes.

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DLR Center
The DLR German Aerospace Center [Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.] (DE) is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.