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German TanDEM-X satellite returns first 3D images

Choppy Indian Ocean waters (yellow) contrast with the calm Baie de Diego (blue)

Germany's new radar satellite, TanDEM-X, has returned its first images.

The spacecraft was launched from Kazakhstan on Monday on a mission to make the most precise 3D map of the Earth's surface.

The pictures demonstrate the platform is in excellent health and ready to team up with the TerraSAR-X satellite launched in 2007.

Together, the pair will trace the variation in height across the globe to a precision of better than two metres.
1.Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport 2.Fields and forests in Ukraine

The new images depict a landscape in Ukraine, the north of Madagascar, and Moscow.

The pictures illustrate neatly the particular specialism of using radar to sense the planet's surface.

In the Madagascan data, for example, the choppiness of the waves in the open stretches of the Indian Ocean can be contrasted with the smooth reflection of the radar signal from the enclosed, clam waters of the Baie de Diego.

And in the image of Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport, the flat concrete surfaces of the runways appear as black lines because the radar beam has been very efficiently reflected away from the satellite.

TanDEM-X is flying in a polar orbit that is ever so slightly inclined to the one occupied by TerraSAR-X, some 514km above the planet.

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