First 2 years of TanDEM-X mission: Interferometric performance overview



[1] The TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement (TanDEM-X) mission comprises two nearly identical satellites: TerraSAR-X (TSX, launched in June 2007), and TanDEM-X (TDX, launched in June 2010), which form an innovative and flexible single-pass radar interferometer. The primary objective of the mission is to generate a worldwide and consistent digital elevation model (DEM) with an unprecedented accuracy. After a calibration phase of the TDX satellite, which was performed during the first 3 months after its launch, the two satellites were brought into close formation to begin the bistatic commissioning phase. Then, in December 2010, TanDEM-X started the operational global DEM acquisition in bistatic configuration. During the last 2 years, dedicated analyses on test acquisitions as well as persistent monitoring of the interferometric performance have been carried out, which are the subject of this paper. Key quantities in estimating interferometric performance such as coherence, relative height error, and phase-unwrapping indicators are investigated, showing the outstanding capabilities of TanDEM-X. Then, the main focus is shifted to those critical areas which, for various reasons, have shown unsatisfactory data quality and therefore must be reacquired with optimized imaging geometries in order to fulfill the DEM accuracy requirements. Promising results have been obtained so far, and future strategies to handle the critical data are discussed. This paper will present an overview of the interferometric performance of TanDEM-X, based on investigations performed in the first 2 years of mission operation, and will include results from the bistatic commissioning phase until the end of the first global DEM acquisition.