Venµs

Not to be confused with its planetary namesake, VENµS is a French-Israeli mission designed to provide close and regular monitoring of vegetation on Earth’s surface. Launch is scheduled in 2016 from Kourou.

For 2½ years, the VENµS microsatellite (Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New MicroSatellite) will deliver imagery of more than 100 areas of interest in forests, croplands and nature reserves across the globe. Images will be acquired in 12 spectral bands at high spatial and temporal resolutions (5-10 m every 2 days) by a camera supplied by CNES. No other sensor currently in orbit combines this kind of revisit rate and resolution for keeping track of vegetation. The trade-off is that VENµS does not offer a global monitoring capability.

By precisely monitoring plant growth and health status, VENµS will help scientists to determine the impacts of environmental factors, human activities and climate change on Earth’s land surfaces. As a contributor to Europe’s Copernicus global environmental monitoring programme, it could also help to develop early-warning systems focused on plant health and water resources with a view to advancing sustainable land stewardship and food security.

VENµS’s science mission will be followed by a one-year technology mission during which its altitude will be lowered to 410 km to gauge the performance of a Hall-effect plasma thruster developed by the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) to counter orbital decay caused by atmospheric drag.