Sophisticated Laser Scanning Sensor Set for ISS Installation

by | Oct 8, 2014


The GEDI lidar will reveal the 3-D architecture of forests with unprecedented detail, providing crucial information about the impact that trees have on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) instrument is one of two new environmental measurement instruments that NASA will install on the International Space Station, beginning in 2019. GEDI is a laser scanner that will measure forest heights around the world, which will help scientists determine how much carbon is stored in forests and how it changes over time.

The detailed 3-D structure of forests will help quantify how much carbon forests contain and help calculate how much would be released if a forest was destroyed.

Lidar has the unique ability to peer into the tree canopy to precisely measure the height and internal structure of the forest at the fine scale required to accurately estimate its carbon content, said Bryan Blair, deputy principal investigator for GEDI at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where the instrument will be built.

GEDI will carry a trio of specialized lasers, developed at Goddard, and will use sophisticated optics to separate the three beams into 14 tracks on the ground. Together, the tracks will be spaced 1,640 feet (500 meters) apart on the surface, creating a total swath width of about 4 miles (6.5 kilometers). GEDI will sample all of the land between 50 degrees north latitude and 50 degrees south latitude this way, covering nearly all tropical and temperate forests. The measurements of tree canopy height will have an accuracy of roughly 1 meter.

Image courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

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