German Eye in the Sky

The SAR-Lupe satellite was launched via a Kosmos-3M rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia earlier this morning. Built by OHB-System AG in Germany ("lupe" is German for magnifying glass; SAR = synthetic aperture radar), the satellite will be used for earth observation, day or night, in any weather condition — according to Wikipedia:

They use an X-band radar with a three-metre dish, providing a resolution of about 50 centimetres over a frame size of 5.5km on a side (‘spotlight mode’, in which the satellite rotates to keep the dish pointed at a single target) or about one metre over a frame size of 8km x 60km (‘stripmap mode’, in which the satellite maintains a fixed orientation over the earth and the radar image is formed simply by the satellite’s motion along its orbit). Response time for imaging of a given area is 10 hours or less.

The Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement) runs this program. Here’s what they like best about this system:

Satellites as carriers of optical or radar sensors can, unlike aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles, carry out reconnaissance operations without infringing sovereign rights. They are thus particularly suited to gather information – without escalating effect – about early crisis detection and prevention and about effective crisis management.