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Mapping of Earth in 3D, but not by Google but German TanDEM-X Satellite.

The TanDEM-X satellite has blasted into orbit on a mission to acquire the most precise 3D map of the Earth's surface.

The German radar spacecraft will fly in formation with an identical platform called TerraSAR-X launched in 2007.

Together, the pair will measure the variation in height across the globe to an accuracy of better than two metres.

Their digital elevation model will have myriad uses, from helping military jets fly ultra low to showing relief workers where an earthquake's damage is worst.

"Our aim is to generate a model at a resolution and a quality that doesn't exist today," explained Dr Vark Helfritz, from satellite image processing company Infoterra GmbH.

"This will be a truly seamless global product - not a patchwork of datasets that have been fitted together," he told BBC News.

TanDEM-X was carried into space atop a converted intercontinental ballistic missile from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Dnepr rocket left its silo at 0214 GMT. A signal confirming TanDEM-X had separated successfully from the vehicle was picked up 29 minutes later at an Antarctic tracking station.

The new satellite was put into a polar orbit that is ever so slightly inclined to the one occupied by TerraSAR-X, some 514km above the planet.

Src & Text: [BBC]

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