About future missions

Understanding Earth

Understanding changes in the Earth system and the impact that humanity is having on its delicate balance is paramount. The ability to acquire new insight into Earth-system processes poses significant scientific and technical challenges.

However, it also provides the stimulus and opportunity to develop new measurement capabilities, exploiting the unique vantage point of space to study the ebb and flow of natural processes and the impact human activity is having at local, regional and global scales.

The series of Earth Explorer satellite missions are the epitome of Europe’s technical endeavour in realising new Earth-observing capabilities. These missions offer a stream of innovative measurement techniques to explore and understand different aspects of the Earth system.

Priorities identified by the scientific community are used to guide the development of the Earth Explorer missions. Each has been selected to address and fulfil the strategic objectives of ESA’s Living Planet Programme as well as contribute critical new elements to the global Earth-observing system infrastructure.

The guiding principle of defining, developing and operating Earth Explorer missions in close cooperation with the scientific community provides a tool to address the most critical Earth-science questions in as comprehensive and effective a manner as possible.

Through a peer-reviewed selection process, this on-going user-driven approach has led to the development of eight Earth Explorer missions, the most recent being Fluorescence Explorer mission, FLEX, which was selected in November 2015. FLEX will provide global maps of vegetation fluorescence, which can be converted into an indicator of actual photosynthetic activity. These data would provide information on plant health and stress, thereby improving our understanding of the global carbon cycle and supporting food security. The FLEX satellite will orbit in tandem with one of the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellites.

A Call for Proposals for Earth Explorer 9 is currently open.

Last update: 25 November 2015

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