NISAR Illustration

The NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) Mission will determine Earth’s changing ecosystems, vibrant surface areas, and ice masses providing details about biomass, natural hazards, sea level increase, and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Designed to spot potential natural dangers and help researchers determine how melting land ice will impact water level increase, the NISAR spacecraft marks a huge action as it takes shape.

An SUV-size Earth satellite that will be geared up with the biggest reflector antenna ever introduced by NASA is taking shape in the tidy space at the company’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California. Called NISAR, the joint objective in between NASA and the Indian Space Research Study Company (ISRO) has huge objectives: By tracking subtle changes in Earth’s surface area, it will spot warning signs of impending volcanic eruptions, help to keep an eye on groundwater products, track the melt rate of ice sheets tied to water level increase, and observe shifts in the distribution of vegetation worldwide. Keeping an eye on these sort of changes in the planet’s surface area over nearly the entire globe hasn’t been done prior to with the high resolution in area and time that NISAR will deliver.

NISAR Imaging Animation

Animation of how NISAR will utilize Artificial Aperture Radar to create high spatial resolution pictures of the Earth’s surface area. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The spacecraft will utilize 2 kinds of artificial aperture radar (SAR) to determine changes in Earth’s surface, thus the name NISAR, which is short for NASA-ISRO SAR. The satellite will utilize a wire mesh radar reflector antenna nearly 40 feet (12 meters) in size at the end of a 30- foot-long (9-meter-long) boom to send and get radar signals to and from Earth’s surface. The principle is similar to how weather radars bounce signals off of raindrops to track storms.

NISAR will discover motions of the planet’s surface as little as 0.4 inches (a centimeter) over locations about the size of half a tennis court. Releasing no earlier than 2022, the satellite will scan the whole globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year primary mission, imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets, and sea ice on every orbit.

Activities such as drawing drinking water from an underground aquifer can leave signs on the surface area: Get too much water, and the ground starts to sink. The movement of magma under the surface area before a volcanic eruption can cause the ground to move. NISAR will provide high-resolution time-lapse radar imagery of such shifts.

S band SAR

The S-band SAR, one of two sort of radar on the NISAR mission, got to JPL on March19 The next day, service technicians and engineers moved the S-SAR into the airlock to the Spacecraft Assembly Center’s High Bay 1 tidy room. The equipment will be unpacked over several days in the clean space. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An All-Weather Satellite

On March 19, NISAR’s assembly, test, and launch group at JPL got an essential piece of equipment– the S-band SAR– from its partner in India. This ability will make it possible for the objective to track modifications in Earth’s surface day or night, rain or shine.

” NISAR is an all-weather satellite that’s going to give us an unprecedented ability to take a look at how Earth’s surface area is altering,” said Paul Rosen, NISAR job researcher at JPL. “It’ll be especially essential for researchers who have been waiting on this type of measurement dependability and consistency to truly understand what drives Earth’s natural systems– and for individuals who deal with natural dangers and catastrophes like volcanoes or landslides.”
This animation shows how the NISAR spacecraft will deploy its radar reflector antenna after launch. Nearly 40 feet (12 meters) in size, the reflector will sit at the end of a 30- foot-long (9-meter-long) boom, sending and receiving radar signals to and from Earth’s surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Both radars work by bouncing microwave signals off of the planet’s surface and recording the length of time the signals require to return to the satellite along with their strength when they return. The bigger the antenna sending out and receiving the signals, the greater the spatial resolution of the data. If scientists wished to see something about 150 feet (45 meters) across with a satellite in low-Earth orbit operating an L-band radar, they ‘d need an antenna almost 14,000 feet (4,250 meters) long– the equivalent of about 10 Empire State Structures stacked on top of each other. Sending out something that size into area simply isn’t possible.

Yet NISAR mission organizers had aspirations to track surface area changes at an even greater resolution– down to around 20 feet (6 meters)– needing an even longer antenna.

The joint U.S.-Indian NISAR satellite objective will utilize radar to observe a large range of Earth procedures, from the flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets to the characteristics of earthquakes and volcanos. Despite the challenges of working throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the science and engineering groups on both sides of the pond are determined to meet their objective objectives. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Evaluating, Evaluating …

So the arrival of the S-band system marked a big celebration for the objective. The devices was provided to the JPL Spacecraft Assembly Center’s High Bay 1 clean room– the exact same room where probes used to check out the planetary system, like Galileo, Cassini, and the twin Voyager spacecraft, were developed– to be unboxed throughout a number of days. “The group is really excited to get their hands on the S-band SAR,” stated Pamela Hoffman, NISAR deputy payload manager at JPL. “We had anticipated it to get here in late spring or early summer of last year, but COVID impacted development at both ISRO and NASA. We aspire to begin incorporating ISRO’s S-SAR electronics with JPL’s L-SAR system.”

Engineers and specialists from JPL and ISRO will invest the next number of weeks performing a health check on the radar before verifying that the L-band and S-band SARs interact as intended. Then they’ll incorporate the S-SAR into part of the satellite structure. Another round of tests will follow to make sure everything is operating as it should.

” NISAR will truly open up the range of concerns that researchers can address and assist resource managers monitor areas of issue,” said Rosen. “There’s a lot of excitement surrounding NISAR, and I can’t wait to see it fly.”

More About the Objective

NISAR is a joint Earth-observing objective between NASA and ISRO.


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