It’s not called a doomsday satellite, but it probably has to be NASA-ISRO SAR, with work continuing on what will ultimately be an eye for impending natural disasters before or after its anticipated launch in 2022. In collaboration between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the satellite will be the first designed to track changes in almost the entire Earth’s surface, which could provide a vital warning of upcoming volcanic eruptions or highlight the impact of climate change.
Certainly, it is not difficult to determine which volcanoes are in the middle of an eruption, and the same is true for floods from melting ice cover and rising sea levels. If you want to deal with when this happens AdvanceIt can be a much tougher challenge though.
NASA’s ISRO modular aperture radar – known as the NASA-ISRO SAR, or NISAR for short – will be the tool to meet this challenge. Although the satellite body itself is almost identical to an SUV, once deployed in Earth orbit, it will open up a radar reflecting antenna with a huge wire mesh. This will span nearly 40 feet wide, suspended from NISAR at the end of a 30-foot jib boom.
However, radar signals will bounce off the planet’s surface, using the reflections to see subtle changes to the Earth, ice cover and sea ice. He’ll be able to offer some amazing detail in those measurements as well: movements as small as 0.4 inch, NASA suggests, On areas about half the size of the tennis court.
Every 12 days, NISAR is expected to scan the entire surface of the globe. With the data they collect, scientists expect to be able to discover things like moving magma – which could be a warning sign of impending volcanic eruptions – or sunken spots that might indicate a depletion of groundwater supplies. It would also allow tracking the rate of melting of ice sheets associated with sea level rise, and even monitoring changes in how vegetation is distributed around the world.
This is not an easy task, and NISAR will have some powerful smart devices to make it happen. Currently under construction at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, it recently received a S-band SAR that joins the L-band SAR and gives the satellite a unique sight.
Combining the two types of SAR will unlock more usable data. For example, the L-band SAR can penetrate dense vegetation much further: it will be helpful to help estimate how much of that is in dense forest areas. In contrast, S-band SAR is more adept at detecting crop types, along with the roughness of the earth’s surface. In the coming weeks, the JPL team expects to integrate the electronic devices of both systems, with ISRO and NASA personnel working together to make sure the radars operate as intended.
Then it will be installed on the NISAR satellite itself. If all goes as planned, the launch is expected in 2022 at the earliest, and the primary mission is set to last for three years.