The joint NASA and ISRO project to make NISAR – the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite – at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars, possibly be the world’s most expensive Earth imaging satellite, is progressing to become a reality soon.
NISAR will be a two frequency RADAR, with an L-band 24 centimetre RADAR and another S-band 13 centimetre one. S-band is being built by ISRO and L-band by NASA, with close collaboration both in terms of the technical building of the satellite as well as working together across the Pacific between India and US.
The NISAR satellite is scheduled for a 2021 launch from India using the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark II. Once in its orbit, the satellite will take snap shots of the Earth every week using these two radars that gives a time lapse image of the motion of the tectonic plates, of the ice sheets, of the changes in vegetation over land in agriculture and forests.
Essentially, it helps to look at time variability of the Earth to understand how disasters evolve, how earthquakes occur, how volcanoes occur, how the ice sheets are changing and affecting sea level rise, and how forest fires and changes in the forest cover affect the atmosphere.
Announcing the NISAR project, ISRO chiarman Kiran Kumar earlier told media, “Currently we are working on it.” It will measure the motions of the crust beneath Earth’s surface and even ice-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, Indian coastal and near-shore ocean studies, and disaster monitoring and assessment.
The other ongoing major missions is the Chandrayaan-II, which will be launched sometime in December 2017 or January 2018.