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ESA's minature Earth observer put to many uses

Launched in October 2001, the Project for Onboard Autonomy (Proba) satellite measures just 60 x 60 x 80 cm. Its main instrument takes up around a third of this pint-sized orbiter and is known as the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (CHRIS). Operating from a distance of 600 km away, CHRIS acquires 14-km square images of the Earth's surface to a resolution of 18 metres, in a combination of up to 19 out of a total of 62 spectral bands to provide added environmental information. And the same scene can be viewed from a variety of different angles because Proba is manoeuvrable enough to perform controlled rolls.

That remarkable combination of abilities has aroused the interests of researchers worldwide. Last week around 40 of them met up at ESA's European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) centre at Frascati, Italy. They discussed their current and future uses of the instrument at the three-day Second CHRIS/Proba Workshop from 28 April.

"Proba was launched as a technology demonstrator with all sorts of experimental equipment aboard, including CHRIS," explained Evert Attema, Head of the ESA Scientific Campaign Unit. "But once in orbit we found both Proba and CHRIS performed well above expectations, and so we put out an Announcement of Opportunity for scientists interested in making use of CHRIS data. Some 60 different groups responded, and we are hearing about their projects during this event."

Looking at life on land

CHRIS's ability to retrieve hyperspectral and multi-angular data makes it especially useful for the study of vegetation cover on land. Francois Kayitakire of the University of Louvain's Water and Forest Unit in Belgium recounted research being carried out on the 10000-hectare Nismes forest.

CHRIS's hyperspectral capability helped differentiate tree species identifying coniferous and deciduous trees as well as spruce and pine groups while differing canopy shadows seen in multiple angle views y
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Contact: Frdric Le Gall
frederic.le.gall@esa.int
39-069-418-0757
European Space Agency
4-May-2004


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