Living Planet Programme

Living Planet Programme

The Living Planet Programme (LPP) [1] is a programme within the European Space Agency which is managed by the Earth Observation Programmes Directorate. LPP consists of two classes of Earth Observation missions (see list below) including research missions known as Earth Explorers, and the Earth Watch class of missions whose objective is to develop support operational applications such as numerical weather forecasting or resource management.


Currently there are seven approved Earth Explorer missions, four of which are in orbit and operating:

  • GOCE – Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer - was launched on March 17, 2009.[2]
  • SMOS – Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite[3][4] will study ocean salinity and soil moisture; it was launched in 2 November 2009.[5]
  • CryoSat is designed to map the Earth's ice cover. CryoSat-1 was lost in 2005 when the Russian SS-19 "Rockot" malfunctioned and was terminated. CryoSat-2 was launched 8 April 2010.
  • Swarm – is a trio of satellites to map the Earth's magnetism.[6] The SWARM constellation was launched successfully on 22 November 2013.[7]
  • Aeolus – Atmospheric Dynamics Mission will use an innovative laser to measure winds. Due for launch in 2015.[8]
  • EarthCARE – Earth Clouds Aerosols and Radiation Explorer will examine the formation and effects of clouds.[9] Due for launch in 2016.
  • BIOMASS is designed to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the world's forests, and to monitor for any changes over the course of its five-year mission. Due to launch in 2020.[10]

In addition the following candidate Earth Explorer missions are being prepared:

  • 7th Earth Explorer mission was selected in January 2009 to be one of the following three down-selected candidates: CoReH2O (snow, ice and water cycle key characteristics observations), PREMIER (atmospheric processes linking trace gases, radiation, chemistry and climate) and BIOMASS - which was eventually selected in 2013. These three candidates were selected out of six candidates which were assessed with pre-feasibility studies. The six Mission Assessment Reports prepared for each of the Candidates for the downselection decision are available from the Mission Science Division. Earth Explorer 7 is currently scheduled to launch in the 2017 timeframe.
  • 8th Earth Explorer mission was open to ideas from the scientific community. Proposals were reviewed and two candidates FLEX (satellite) and CarbonSat are currently undergoing feasibility study. Earth Explorer 8 is scheduled for launch in the 2019 timeframe.


  1. ^ ESA's Living Planet Programme European Space Agency
  2. ^ GOCE site, ESA, retrieved 2009-03-04 
  3. ^ ESA's water mission SMOS European Space Agency
  4. ^ Drinkwater, Mark; Kerr, Yann; Font, Jordi; Berger, Michael (February 2009). "Exploring the Water Cycle of the ‘Blue Planet’: The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission". ESA Bulletin ( 
  5. ^ "European water mission lifts off". BBC News. 2 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  6. ^ Eurockot to launch two ESA Earth observation missions, 9 April 2010
  7. ^ "Esa's satellite Swarm launch to map Earth's magnetism". BBC News. 22 November 2013. 
  8. ^ "Wind laser survives extremes". ESA. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  9. ^ ESA signs EUR 263m earth monitoring satellite contract Environment Expert [dot] Com
  10. ^ Jonathan Amos (8 May 2013). "Esa approves Biomass satellite to monitor Earth's forests".