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NASA-ISRO science instruments arrive in India

NISAR will be able to collect measurements day and night, in all weather conditions, and its trove of data will help researchers better understand a broad range of Earth science topics, including landslides, groundwater loss, and the carbon cycle.

The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) science instrument payload is unloaded from a cargo plane shortly after arriving in Bengaluru, India, on March 6. At ISRO’s U R Rao Satellite Centre, it will be combined with the NISAR satellite body in p... Credit: ISRO. Image Source - JPL

In a significant development, two NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) systems arrived at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s U R Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, India ahead of its 2024 launch.

The science payload of two radar systems, one built by NASA and the other by the ISRO, completed the journey by a C-17 heavy lift aircraft of the US Air Force from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California to Bengaluru.

The advanced radar system, launched as part of a NASA science mission, will combine with the satellite’s body, or bus, and be made to run through tests in advance of its three-year mission, an official statement from JPL said.

As part of the mission, NISAR is designed to observe nearly all of Earth’s land and ice surfaces twice every 12 days, measuring movements in extremely fine detail, JPL mentioned.

Once in operation, the all-weather-enabled mission will survey forests and agricultural regions to help scientists understand carbon exchange between plants and the atmosphere, the US space agency explained. Moreover, it will help the scientists study natural hazards, melting sea ice, groundwater supply, and more.

According to the released statement, NISAR’s payload will be the maximum and it will feature the largest-ever radar antenna of its kind: a drum-shaped, wire mesh reflector nearly 40 feet (12 meters) in diameter that will extend from a 30-foot (9-meter) boom.

According to shared specifications by JPL, the mission’s science instruments consist of L- and S-band radar so named to indicate the wavelengths of their signals. ISRO built the S-band radar, which it shipped to JPL in March 2021. Engineers spent much of the last two years integrating the instrument with the JPL-built L-band system and then conducting tests to verify whether they work well together.

The next time the satellite is airborne will be aboard ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-II rocket, which is set to lift off in 2024 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on India’s southeastern coast and deliver NISAR into a near-polar Earth orbit, JPL disclosed.