DTU Space conducts research into radar systems, principles and methods and has both developed and flown several different airborne radar systems. The work is often carried out under ESA contracts, where the objective has been to demonstrate a specific concept and to collect scientific data for use in the development of applications and methods for space-based systems.
The Institute’s radar system activities began in the late 1960s and early 70s. At that time, the Institute developed a low-frequency (60 MHz) ice radar and used it to measure the thickness of the Greenland ice cap as well as large areas of the Antarctic ice sheet. Following upgrading to coherent signal processing, the system is still currently in use. Today the system is used to monitor the thickness of Greenland’s inland ice and provide detailed mapping of the ice so that 3D modelling can be used to predict hydropower production, for example.
The extremely successful airborne EMISAR system was developed at the beginning of the 1990s and was used in technical and scientific campaigns, including ESA campaigns. The high-quality data collected using these polarimetric and interferometric SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) systems are still in many ways unique.
The current ESA POLARIS project centres on an airborne ice radar that uses the latest technology and techniques for signal processing, data processing and radar techniques. Currently, this research is moving in two directions: an improved antenna which makes it possible to suppress unwanted signals from the ice surface in support of a potential space-based ice radar mission, and a SAR operation to support ESA’s future P-band SAR missions.
Another of the Institute’s ESA projects focuses on the development of two Terahertz cameras: An electronic system that operates at 0.27 THz and a photonic system with a pulse length of approximately 100 fs. These cameras have a variety of applications ranging from the detection of material defects and chemical substances to sensors that can ‘see’ through dust storms on Mars. Both cameras have several transmitting and receiving antennae, which in combination with advanced digital signal processing offer fast 3D imaging without mechanical scanning or with one-directional scanning.