From April 1998 to May 2014, the VEGETATION instrument on the SPOT 4 and SPOT 5 satellites provided global daily monitoring of vegetation cover. Its successor is today flying on the European PROBA-V satellite.

Trees, plants and crops grow in step with the seasons and climate variations. CNES’s VEGETATION instrument kept close watch over their growth cycles for more than 16 years on board SPOT-4 and SPOT-5, bringing deeper insights into the dynamics of land cover and the impact of global warming.

How? With four independent cameras, each operating in a specific spectral band: blue (0.43-0.47 microns), red (0.61-0.68 microns), near-infrared (0.78-0.89 microns) and shortwave infrared (1.58-1.75 microns). The red and near-infrared bands are especially well suited to detecting the spectral signature of chlorophyll. Soil moisture and vegetation show up clearly in the shortwave infrared which, when combined with the blue band, affords good characterization and correction of atmospheric effects on reflectance. The VEGETATION instrument offered a ground swath of 2,200 km and a spatial resolution of 1.15 to 1.7 km.

A lighter version of VEGETATION is currently flying on the European PROBA-V satellite launched in 2013. With its 1-km, 300-m and 100-m resolutions, this instrument is both a follow-on to VEGETATION and a precursor of the SLSTR instrument (Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer) on the SENTINEL-3 satellites. The VEGETATION programme was developed by France, Belgium, Italy and Sweden with the backing of the European Commission.