Living Planet Programme

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The Living Planet Programme (LPP) [1] is a programme within the European Space Agency which is managed by the Earth Observation Programmes Directorate. LPP consists of two classes of Earth observation missions (listed below) including research missions known as Earth Explorers, and the Earth Watch class of missions whose objective is to develop support operational applications such as numerical weather forecasting or resource management.

List of Earth Explorers missions[edit]

Selected missions[edit]

Currently there are eight approved Earth Explorer missions, five of which are in orbit and operating:

  • GOCE – Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer; it was launched on 17 March 2009.[2]
  • SMOS – Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite[3][4] will study ocean salinity and soil moisture; it was launched on 2 November 2009.[5]
  • CryoSat – a program designed to map the Earth's ice cover.
    • CryoSat-1 was lost in 2005 when the Russian SS-19 Rockot launch vehicle malfunctioned and was terminated.
    • CryoSat-2 was launched on 8 April 2010.
  • Swarm – a trio of satellites to map the Earth's magnetic field.[6] The SWARM constellation was launched successfully on 22 November 2013.[7]
  • Aeolus – the Atmospheric Dynamics Mission Aeolus uses an innovative laser to measure global winds. Aeolus was successfully launched on 22 August 2018.[8][9]
  • EarthCARE – Earth Clouds Aerosols and Radiation Explorer will examine the formation and effects of clouds.[10] Due for launch in 2021.[11]
  • Biomass (satellite) [fr] – designed to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the world's forests, and to monitor for any changes over the course of its five-year mission. Due to launch in 2021.[12][13]
  • FLEX – the FLuorescence EXplorer mission will globally monitor steady-state chlorophyll fluorescence in terrestrial vegetation.[14] It is envisaged to launch in 2023.[15]

Candidate missions[edit]

There are two ongoing competitions for the Earth Explorer 9 and Earth Explorer 10 missions.[16][17]

Earth Explorer 9 Candidates[edit]

The winning candidate is currently projected to launch in 2025.[16]

Earth Explorer 10 Candidates[edit]

The winning candidate is currently projected to launch in 2027 or 2028.[17]

Non-selected missions[edit]

Past candidate missions that were not selected include:

  • CoReH2O – a mission to study key characteristics in terrestrial snow, ice, and water cycles and their relations to climate change and variability.[19] Competed with BIOMASS and PREMIER for the Earth Explorer 7 mission opportunity.
  • PREMIER – a mission to study atmospheric processes related to trace gas, radiation, and chemical compositions in the mid to upper troposphere and lower stratosphere in order to understand their role on climate change.[20] Competed with BIOMASS and CoReH2O for the Earth Explorer 7 mission opportunity.
  • CarbonSat – a mission to determine the global distributions of carbon dioxide and methane and their impact on climate change.[21] Competed with FLEX for the Earth Explorer 8 mission opportunity.


  1. ^ ESA's Living Planet Programme European Space Agency
  2. ^ GOCE site, ESA, retrieved 30 January 2016
  3. ^ "ESA's water mission SMOS". ESA. 6 November 2013. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  4. ^ Drinkwater, Mark; Kerr, Yann; Font, Jordi; Berger, Michael (February 2009). "Exploring the Water Cycle of the 'Blue Planet': The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission" (PDF). ESA Bulletin. European Space Agency (137): 6–15.
  5. ^ Amos, Jonathan (2 November 2009). "European water mission lifts off". BBC News. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Eurockot to launch two ESA Earth observation missions". ESA. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Esa's satellite Swarm launch to map Earth's magnetism". BBC News. 22 November 2013.
  8. ^ "Aeolus - ESA Future Missions". ESA. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  9. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (22 May 2015). "Cost, Schedule Woes on 2 Lidar Missions Push ESA To Change Contract Procedures". Spacenews. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  10. ^ "ESA signs EUR 263m earth monitoring satellite contract". Environment Expert. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  11. ^ "EarthCARE - Earth Online - ESA". ESA. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Biomass - ESA Future Missions". ESA. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  13. ^ Jonathan Amos (8 May 2013). "Esa approves Biomass satellite to monitor Earth's forests". BBC News. (British Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  14. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (25 September 2015). "Panel Endorses Vegetation Fluorescence Mapper for ESA's Earth Explorer Program". Spacenews. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Thales Alenia leads the build of photosynthesis mission". ESA. 18 January 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  16. ^ a b c d "Two new Earth Explorer concepts to understand our rapidly changing world". ESA. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d e "Three Earth Explorer ideas selected". ESA. 21 September 2018. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Save the date: Earth Explorer 9 User Consultation Meeting". ESA. 30 January 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  19. ^ "CoReH2O - Report for Mission Selection - An Earth Explorer to observe snow and ice". ESA. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  20. ^ "PREMIER - Report for Mission Selection - An Earth Explorer to observe atmospheric composition". ESA. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  21. ^ "Reports on Earth Explorer Candidates CarbonSat and FLEX Now Available". ESA. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2017.