ERS-1 - Earth Resource Satellite


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ERS-1 satellite

ERS-1 satellite
© Geoscience Australia


The following is a brief description of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Earth Resource Satellite (ERS).

Historical information

The first satellite in this series, ERS-1 was launched on 17 July 1991 and ERS-2 on 20 April 1995. These satellites are designed to gather information about the earth's ocean, ice and land resources using a variety of sensors. Orbiting the Earth for nine years, over three times its planned lifetime, the ERS-1 mission was ended on 10 March 2000 by a failure in the on-board attitude control system. ERS-2 was retired on 4 July 2011. ERS-1 and 2 data are available from our archive.

Satellite characteristics

Geoscience Australia acquires data from one of the instruments on board, the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which operates in C-band from the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In addition to the Synthetic Aperture Radar, ERS-1 and ERS-2 carry other instruments:

  • the Radar Altimeter
  • the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer and Microwave Sounder
  • the Precise Range and Range Rate Equipment (functional only on ERS-2)
  • the Wind Scatterometer
  • the Laser Retro-reflector.

Sensor Parameters - Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)

The SAR is an active microwave sensor capable of imaging earth resource targets regardless of time of day, cloud, haze or smoke cover of an area. The instrument is classified 'active' as it emits the energy necessary to image the earth's surface.

In contrast, 'passive' or 'optical' sensors rely on the sun's reflected energy to image the earth. More general information on SAR is available through NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory: What is Imaging Radar?

ERS SAR Characteristics

Frequency 5.3 GHz
Bandwidth 15.55 MHz
Band Name C Band
Wavelength 56mm
Incidence Angle 23 deg (mid swath)
Polarisation VV*
* V=vertical.

Generalised Applications

Meteorology Interrelationship between oceanographic and climatic phenomena and their influence on global climatic change
Geology Structural mapping, volcanism studies, coastal erosion studies
Vegetation Monitoring Vegetation change, crop monitoring
Hydrology Soil moisture studies, surface water body morphology, snow extent and condition
Land Use Mapping, change assessment
Oceanography and Glaciology Monitoring of polar ice sheets and sea ice; monitoring ocean circulation, currents and tides

How to get ERS SAR imagery and data


To enquire about data availability or to order ERS SAR data, please contact: Earth Observation Client Services, or your preferred Local Distributor.

Topic contact: Last updated: August 20, 2012