TerraSAR-X add-on for digital elevation measurement (TanDEM-X) is a German Earth observation mission collecting a total of two global coverages of very high resolution (VHR) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) X-band data with a spatial resolution of around three meters in the years 2011 and 2012. With these, the TanDEM-X mission (TDM) will provide a unique data set which is complementary to existing global coverages based on medium (MR) or high resolution (HR) optical imagery. The capabilities of the TDM in terms of supporting the analysis and monitoring of global human settlement patterns are explored and demonstrated. The basic methodology for a fully-operational detection and delineation of built-up areas from VHR SAR data is presented along with a description of the resulting geo-information product—the urban footprint (UF) mask—and the operational processing environment for the UF production. Moreover, potential follow-on analyses based on the intermediate products generated in the context of the UF analysis are introduced and discussed. The results of the study indicate the high potential of the TDM with respect to an analysis of urbanization patterns, peri-urbanization, spatio-temporal dynamics of settlement development as well as population estimation, vulnerability assessment and modeling of global change.