A European Space Agency (ESA) satellite that was built at Airbus in Stevenage has begun its journey to France for final testing ahead of its launch. 

‘Biomass’ is a forest measuring satellite, and will go through a stringent testing programme at a facility in Toulouse before its planned launch from French Guiana in 2024. 

It will operate on the ESA’s Earth Explorer Mission for five years, creating a global map every six months. New and previously unused P-radar band technology will enable it to create more accurate forest maps than are possible using equipment on the ground. 

Being operational for five years means the satellite will be able to spot trends in how much carbon dioxide the trees absorb and release. 

The project will enable scientists to gain a better understanding of how much carbon is contained in forests across the world, and of the damage that deforestation causes to the global climate.

It will also ensure that data across the world's forests is consistent and impartial.

Richard Franklin, managing director of Airbus Defence and Space UK, said: “Biomass will be able to measure the world’s forests on a global scale.

"It will give scientists vital information about just how much carbon is locked up and also being absorbed by the 'lungs' of the planet enabling better decisions to be made on tackling climate change.” 
Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “It’s exciting to see Biomass, built with backing from the UK Space Agency, setting off to prepare for its mission.

"It’s the first satellite capable of studying the world’s forests in three dimensions, providing valuable data on how they store carbon.

"With this information, organisations and authorities around the world will be able to measure key changes in our forests, predict what the impact will be, and take early action to prepare for, or even correct, that, as well as work towards critical net zero targets.

"This is a ground-breaking programme made possible by UK expertise in Earth observation science and we are proud to be a part of it.”