NASA-ISRO NISAR Mission: A Joint Effort to Observe Earth’s Changes

The crucial component of the first-ever IndiaUS joint satellite mission, NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR), has been accorded a ceremonial send-off from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The event combines both Indian and NASA-JPL traditions, with the breaking of coconuts and sharing of “lucky peanuts”. NASA’s Artemis I Mission: A Success for the Space Launch System Rocket

NISAR is a Low Earth Orbit observatory being developed jointly by the American and Indian space agencies. It will carry a powerful, all-weather Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capable of imaging the Earth’s land and ice surfaces with precision. Engineers at JPL are currently integrating and testing NISAR’s two radar systems – the L-band SAR provided by JPL and the S-band SAR built by ISRO.

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JPL leads the US component of the project, providing the L-band SAR, the radar reflector antenna, deployable boom, communication subsystem, GPS receivers, solid-state recorder, and payload data subsystem. ISRO will provide the spacecraft bus, S-band SAR, launch vehicle, launch services, and satellite mission operations.

NISAR will use a drum-shaped reflector antenna, almost 40 feet in diameter, to gather radar data. The satellite will use interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) to observe changes on Earth, helping predict natural disasters and track climate change. The satellite will observe nearly the entire planet every 12 days, day and night, in all weather conditions.

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The observations made by NISAR will help researchers measure the ways in which the Earth is constantly changing, including slow-moving variations that can precede earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Data about these movements can help communities prepare for natural hazards. Measurements of melting sea ice and ice sheets will improve understanding of the pace and impact of climate change, including sea level rise.

JPL Director Laurie Leshin says that NISAR’s collaboration with ISRO “exemplifies what’s possible when we tackle complex challenges together.” The satellite payload will be moved to India’s U R Rao Satellite Centre later this month, where it will be merged with the spacecraft bus in preparation for a 2024 launch.

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