In an unprecedented global collaboration endeavor, NASA and the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) are joining forces to develop the NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite. Built on opposite sides of the planet, the satellite has recently been assembled in Bengaluru, India.
This powerful Earth-observing satellite promises to revolutionize our understanding of a range of natural and environmental phenomena, including climate change, deforestation, glacier melt, volcanoes, and earthquakes. With a launch set for early 2024, the NISAR satellite represents a significant step toward the future of Earth exploration and observation.
NISAR: A Masterpiece of Engineering and Innovation
The NISAR satellite is a masterpiece of engineering and innovation. Composed of two main components: the satellite bus and the radar instrument payload. The satellite was assembled in an ISRO clean room in Bengaluru, India. The radar instrument payload, which arrived from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in March, and the bus, built at ISRO, were joined to create a single spacecraft.
NISAR is designed to track Earth’s land and ice surface movements in extremely fine detail. Monitoring nearly every part of our planet at least once every 12 days, the satellite will provide valuable data for understanding the dynamics of forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands, among other observables.
Technical details of the payload:
The satellite’s payload, about the size of an SUV and partially wrapped in a gold-colored thermal blanket, contains two radar systems. The S-band radar is particularly useful for monitoring crop structure and the roughness of land and ice surfaces, while the L-band instrument can penetrate denser forest canopies to study the woody trunks of trees, among other observables. Both sensors can see through clouds and collect data day and night.
The payload’s journey to get to this point has been long and winding. The S-band radar was built at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad, western India, and then flown in March 2021 to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where engineers had been developing NISAR’s L-band radar. At JPL, the two systems were fixed to the payload’s barrel-like frame before being flown to the U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru in March 2023.
In the meantime, engineers and technicians at URSC, collaborating with teams from JPL, were busy developing the spacecraft’s main body, or bus, which is covered in blue blanketing that protects it during assembly and testing prior to launch. The bus, which includes components and systems developed by both ISRO and JPL, will provide power, navigation, pointing control, and communications for the mission.
The NISAR Mission: A New Era for Global Environmental Research
The NISAR satellite, a product of the collaboration between NASA and ISRO, marks a significant step in our ability to monitor and understand our planet. With its launch set for 2024, NISAR will provide valuable data that could have a significant impact on a range of sectors, from scientific research to environmental policy planning.
This mission underscores the importance of global cooperation and technological innovation in responding to the environmental challenges of our time. In an era of increasing awareness of the importance of sustainability, the launch of the NISAR satellite is a reminder of the crucial role that science and technology play in guiding our approach to these global challenges.