Field of Science

Planet Earth now in 3D: First TanDEM-X DEMs

The two German twin-satellites "Terrasar-X" and "Tandem-X" will in the next three years survey Earth with a new revolutionary method, but first glimpses of the new technology are now aviable.
„Tandem X“ orbits earth since 2007, but only four weeks ago he was joined by his twin "Terrasar-X". To gather the data for a three-dimensional model both satellites have to orbit parallel to each other, and observe the same point from different angles. The two satellites have not jet reached their definitive orbit, but on the 16. July they approached each other up to 370 kilometres, enabling mission control to collect preliminary data with a resolution of some centimetres. In the last days the satellites were moved to fly in tandem 20 kilometres apart, the definitive survey of the Earth’s surface will occur then with a satellite to satellite distance of 200 to 500m, to reach a never before seen mapping resolution and accuracy.

Fig.1. The first image created by the researchers of the German Space Agency (Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt - DLR) shows a three-dimensional model (vertical exaggerated) of a glacier tongue on the remote October Revolution Island, part of the larger Severnaya Zemlya archipelago in the Russian Arctic (79° northern latitude). (figure by Infoterra GmnH), here the zoomable version.

Online Resources:

Infoterra GmbH (Germany) (2010): Image Gallery. (Accessed 22.07.2010)


  1. That's really cool. I wish that they said what the vertical exaggeration here is- the cap is 700 m tall by 30-40 km so it looks like the true shape has been altered quite a lot.

  2. Yes, unfortunately they don't give further technical info (I posted some supplementary that I found), but maybe the images are thought only as "demo" to show the data, I found only mentioned that in this image the height difference is 200m

    Hope that the raw data will be one day released to the public


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