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The French Spot satellites have been charting the world’s vegetation since 1998. This important task soon falls to ESA’s Proba-V, which, despite being only a little larger than a washing machine, will provide sharp views of Earth’s plant life every two days. Keeping a close check on the health of vegetation is not only essential for monitoring environmental change, but also for numerous practical applications – importantly, those related to agriculture and food security.
Over the past 10 years, more than 8000 registered users around the world have relied on data from the Vegetation instruments on Spot-4 and Spot-5. Since the sensor on Spot-4 stopped supplying data last year and Spot-5 is expected to come to an end in the middle of 2014, the upcoming Proba-V mission has been designed to continue the supply of this much-needed imagery.
Furthermore, after the loss of Envisat and its MERIS camera, Proba-V will help to bridge the gap until the launch of the Sentinel-3 mission, which carries the Ocean Land Colour Instrument to follow on the 10-year time series of MERIS data.
The V in Proba-V also stands for Vegetation, but the design is somewhat different to Spot’s – it is much smaller. The whole satellite is less than one cubic metre, with the sensor being a cleverly miniaturised version of Spot-5’s full-size camera.