Photo credit  |  Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

BIOMASS: weighing carbon stored in forests

Missions  |  01 February, 2020  |  Reading time: 2 minutes

Mission facts

  • Global coverage
  • Forest above ground biomass: 200 m resolution
  • Canopy height: 200 m resolution
  • Area of forest clearing: 50 m resolution
  • One map every 6 months for 4 years
  • Unprecedented accuracy


BIOMASS is the first satellite that will study the world’s forests in 3-dimensions using a P-band tomographic radar. Scheduled for launch in 2023, it will reduce the current huge uncertainties in the amount of carbon stored in forests and how this changes with time, providing vital information to support decision making around climate change.

Observations from this new mission will also lead to better insight into rates of habitat loss and, hence, the impact this may be having on biodiversity in the forest environment.

UK expertise

UK industrial experience in building satellites and designing radars is being put to work for the European Space Agency to develop its BIOMASS mission.
Professor Shaun Quegan of the University of Sheffield and the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) conceived the concept for the mission, which was proposed in 2005, and leads the scientific team. His NCEO colleague Professor Mat Williams at the University of Edinburgh is a key member of the BIOMASS Mission Advisory Group bringing ecological, modelling and data assimilation expertise to the application of BIOMASS data.

Airbus has reported that, despite the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, integration of the hardware onto the Structure Model Platform was completed in January 2021.

Airbus is incorporating BIOMASS activities into its Stevenage Discovery Space STEM Centre, backed and funded by Airbus, the Airbus Foundation and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and operated by North Hertfordshire College. The Centre was opened by British astronaut, Tim Peake, in 2017.

Image: Biomass, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) forest measuring satellite is taking shape at Airbus’ Covid-secure site in Stevenage, Herts. Image: Airbus

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Further information

Project partners

  • Airbus
  • National Centre for Earth Observation
  • ESA


  • Ralph Cordey, Airbus Defence and Space Ltd

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