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Mission typeEarth observation satellite
Mission duration5 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerAirbus Defence and Space (UK)
Launch mass1,170 kilograms (2,580 lb)
Power1500 watts
Start of mission
Launch date2023 (planned)
Launch siteKourou ELV
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
Altitude660 km

BIOMASS is an Earth observing satellite planned for launch by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2023.[2][1]

The mission will provide the first comprehensive measurements of global forest biomass. The mission is meant to last for five years, monitoring at least eight growth cycles in the worlds’ forests.


First announced in May 2013, when it was selected as ESA's seventh Earth Explorer, the BIOMASS satellite is part of ESA's Living Planet Programme, which consists of Earth observation missions.[3][4] Its initial launch date was set to 2020, but that has since been delayed to 2023.[2] The entire cost of the mission was placed at around 400 million euros. The main scientific instrument aboard BIOMASS will be a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) operating at 435 MHz.[5] The satellite will measure 10 x 12 x 20m, weight around 1.2 tonnes and it is set to orbit the Earth at an altitude of 600 km.[6][7][8]

The BIOMASS mission is planned to continue its observation of Earth for five years after launch, during which it will provide detailed information about at least eight growth cycles in the world's forests.[9]

In 2016 it was announced that Airbus Defence and Space UK will build the satellite under a contract valued at 229 million euros.[10][11] BIOMASS will be equipped with a large 12-m deployable antenna, which will be built in Friedrichshafen, Germany.[11] The instruments of the antennas are being fabricated by Italy and France through Thales Alenia Space.[12] All devices for assembly of the satellite structure, including vertical transport equipment, assembly and disassembly of satellite panels, assembly and disassembly of the Synthetic Aperture Radar will be done by the Spanish company SENER.[8]

Scientific objectives[edit]

The main objective of BIOMASS is to measure forest biomass in order to assess terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes and better understand the planet's carbon cycle.[3] The Biomass mission will explore Earth's surface at the P-band wavelength, the first time this technique is used from orbit. This will allow it to provide accurate maps of tropical, temperate and boreal forest biomass that are not obtainable by ground measurement techniques.[11][13][14] The amount of biomass and forest height will be measured at a resolution of 200 m, and forest disturbances such as clear-cutting at a resolution of 50 m.[15][16]

Its stated objectives are:[17]

  1. Reduce the large uncertainties in the carbon flux due to changes in land use
  2. Provide scientific support for international treaties, agreements and programs such as the UN’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) program
  3. Improve understanding and predictions of landscape-scale carbon dynamics
  4. Provide observations to initialize and test the land element of Earth system models
  5. Provide key information for forest resources management and ecosystem services.

It is expected that the data sent back from the satellite will also contribute new information to other areas of climate science, like measuring the biomass of desert regions to find fossil water and new water sources in arid regions as well as contributing to observations of ice sheet dynamics, subsurface geology and forest topography.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Arianespace and ESA announce the Earth Explorer Biomass launch contract". Arianespace (Press release). 28 October 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Biomass – ESA's forest mission". ESA. 28 April 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Biomass". ESA. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  4. ^ "The Earth Explorer Biomass". ESA. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  5. ^ Arcioni, M.; Bensi, P.; Fehringer, M.; Fois, F.; Hélière, F.; Lin, C.-; Scipal, K. (July 2014). "The Biomass mission, status of the satellite system". 2014 IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium: 1413–1416. doi:10.1109/IGARSS.2014.6946700. ISBN 978-1-4799-5775-0. S2CID 21525036.
  6. ^ Amos, Jonathan (7 May 2013). "ESA Approves Biomass Satellite to Monitor Earth's Forests". BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  7. ^ "Image: Biomass Earth Explorer satellite". 13 February 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  8. ^ a b Harebottle, Adrienne (11 May 2018). "Sener to Develop Biomass Satellite Assembly Devices for ESA". Via Satellite. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  9. ^ "World's Biomass to Be Measured With Satellite Constructed by Airbus Defence and Space". Bioenergy Insight Magazine. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  10. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (3 May 2016). "Airbus UK to build Europe's Biomass satellite, featuring first use of P-band radar". SpaceNews. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d "Airbus Defence and Space Signs Contract to Build Biomass – the European Space Agency's Forest Mission". Airbus. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Aerospace, BIOMASS space mission will have Italo-French "antennas"". ResearchItaly. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  13. ^ Massotti, Luca; Arcioni, Marco; Ankersen, Pierluigi Silvestrin Finn; Casasco, Massimo (2013-01-01). "Modern Attitude Control and Co-design for the Biomass Satellite (Earth Explorer Core Mission 7)". IFAC Proceedings Volumes. 19th IFAC Symposium on Automatic Control in Aerospace. 46 (19): 405–410. doi:10.3182/20130902-5-DE-2040.00036. ISSN 1474-6670.
  14. ^ Laurin, Gaia Vaglio; Pirotti, Francesco; Cellegari, Maria; Chen, Qi; Cuozzo, Giovanni; Lingua, Emanuele; Notarnicola, Claudia; Papale, Dario (2019). "Potential of ALOS2 and NDVI to Estimate Forest Above-Ground Biomass, and Comparison with Lidar-Derived Estimates". In Kumar, Lalit; Mutanga, Onisimo (eds.). Remote Sensing of Above Ground Biomass. Basel, Beijing, Wuhan, Barcelona, Belgrade: MDPI. p. 61. ISBN 9783039212095.
  15. ^ "ESA: Biomass satellite to be launched in 2020". UN-SPIDER. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  16. ^ Scipal, K.; Arcioni, M.; Chave, J.; Dall, J.; Fois, F.; LeToan, T.; Lin, C.; Papathanassiou, K.; Quegan, S. (July 2010). "The BIOMASS mission — An ESA Earth Explorer candidate to measure the BIOMASS of the earth's forests" (PDF). 2010 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium: 52–55. doi:10.1109/IGARSS.2010.5648979. ISBN 978-1-4244-9565-8. S2CID 10610055.
  17. ^ Kramer, Herbert J. (8 December 2018). "Biomass (Biomass monitoring mission for Carbon Assessment)". eoPortal - Earth Observation Directory & News. Retrieved 20 September 2019.