The “NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar” (NISAR) Earth observation satellite is the result of a joint venture between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is poised to transform the field of study on Earth’s forest and wetland ecosystems and their effects on the global carbon cycle, ultimately impacting the dynamics of climate change.
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the NISAR radar satellite mission, which is slated for launch in early 2024, will provide significant insights into two important ecosystem types: wetlands and forests. These ecosystem types are crucial for the natural regulation of greenhouse gases that cause global climate change.
Every 12 days after entering orbit, NISAR’s cutting-edge radar equipment will perform thorough scans of practically the whole surface of Earth, including the ice and land masses. Researchers will be able to better understand two essential roles of these ecosystems—the uptake and release of carbon—thanks to the data it gathers.
According to JPL, wetlands hold carbon in their organic soil layers, whereas forests absorb and store it in their tree wood. Carbon dioxide and methane can be released into the atmosphere more quickly if there are any abrupt or gradual changes to these systems.
Researchers looking into the effects of these changes in land cover on the carbon cycle—which controls the flow of carbon between the atmosphere, land, ocean, and living things—will benefit immensely from the global monitoring of these changes.
“The radar technology on NISAR will provide us with a comprehensive view of the planet in terms of both space and time,” commented Paul Rosen, the NISAR project scientist at NASA’s JPL in Southern California. “It will offer a highly reliable perspective on the evolving state of Earth’s land and ice.”
The outcome of an equal partnership between NASA and ISRO, NISAR represents the first time these two organisations have worked together to create gear for an Earth-observing mission.
In charge of the U.S. portion of the project, JPL works with NASA via the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, and provides the mission’s L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The solid-state recorder, GPS receivers, radar reflector antenna, deployable boom, high-rate communication subsystem for scientific data, and payload data subsystem are among the other components that NASA is in charge of providing.
The spacecraft bus, S-band SAR electronics, launch vehicle, launch services, and satellite mission operations are all under the control of ISRO’s U R Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, which is leading the ISRO segment of the project. An important turning point in climate science and Earth observation technologies has been reached with the collaborative NISAR mission.
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