Chennai: Officials of two space agencies – Indias ISRO and the NASA of the US – followed their respective traditions at the send off ceremony of NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) – an Earth science satellite being jointly built by NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Outside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California and in front of a scale model of the NISAR satellite, NASA’s NISAR Project Manager Phil Barela and ISRO’s NISAR Project Director C.V. Shrikant ceremonially broke fresh coconuts.
The breaking of coconuts before an important event is an auspicious tradition in India to pave the way for a smooth completion of a task.
On his part, JPL Director Laurie Leshin, as per his organisation’s tradition, presented the ISRO delegation that included Chairman S. Somanath with a jar of ‘lucky’ peanuts.
The NISAR payload on its arrival in India will be fitted on a spacecraft bus and tested. The satellite will be launched from Sriharikota in 2024 by an Indian rocket called Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehcile (GSLV).
“This marks an important milestone in our shared journey to better understand planet Earth and our changing climate,” Leshin said, adding, “NISAR will provide critical information on Earth’s crust, ice sheets, and ecosystems. By delivering measurements at unprecedented precision, NISAR’s promise is new understanding and positive impact in communities. Our collaboration with ISRO exemplifies what’s possible when we tackle complex challenges together.”
“Today we come one step closer to fulfilling the immense scientific potential NASA and ISRO envisioned for NISAR when we joined forces more than eight years ago,” Somanath said.
“This mission will be a powerful demonstration of the capability of radar as a science tool and help us study Earth’s dynamic land and ice surfaces in greater detail than ever before,” he added.
NISAR will gather radar data with a drum-shaped reflector antenna almost 40 feet (12 metres) in diameter. It will use a signal-processing technique called interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR, to observe changes in Earth’s land and ice surfaces down to fractions of an inch.
Since early 2021, engineers and technicians at JPL have been integrating and testing NISAR’s two radar systems the L-band SAR provided by JPL and the S-band SAR built by ISRO.
Later this month, they will move the SUV-size payload into a special cargo container for a 9,000-mile (14,000 km) flight to India’s U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. There it will be merged with the spacecraft bus in preparation for a 2024 launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
The observations NISAR makes will help researchers measure the ways in which Earth is constantly changing by detecting both subtle and dramatic movements.
Slow-moving variations of a land surface can precede earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, and data about such movement could help communities prepare for natural hazards.
Measurements of melting sea ice and ice sheets will improve understanding of the pace and impacts of climate change, including sea level rise. And observations of the planet’s forest and agricultural regions will improve our knowledge of carbon exchange between the atmosphere and plant communities, reducing uncertainties in models used to project future climate.
Over the course of its three-year prime mission, the satellite will observe nearly the entire planet every 12 days, making observations day and night, in all weather conditions.
NISAR is a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and ISRO. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, leads the US component of the project and is providing the mission’s L-band SAR. NASA is also providing the radar reflector antenna, the deployable boom, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder, and payload data subsystem.
ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the S-band SAR, the launch vehicle, and associated launch services and satellite mission operations, JPL said.