Aerospace Performs Mission Assurance for Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Spacecraft

Corporate Staff
posted August 23, 2012

Background:

SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. These measurements will be used to enhance understanding of processes that link the water, energy and carbon cycles, and to extend the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models. SMAP data will also be used to quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes and to develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capabilities. The SMAP observatory employs a dedicated spacecraft with an instrument suite that will be launched on an expendable launch vehicle into a 680-km near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit SMAP instrument includes a radiometer and a synthetic aperture radar operating at L-band (1.20-1.41 GHz). The instrument is designed to make coincident measurements of surface emission and backscatter, with the ability to sense the soil conditions through moderate vegetation cover. The instrument measurements will be analyzed to yield estimates of soil moisture and freeze/thaw state.

Value Added:

Aerospace-developed radar signal processing image formation algorithms were used to process Goldstone radar data and retrieve high-resolution topographic maps of the lunar surface. This was part of a JPL-funded effort to use the high-power Goldstone radar for detailed investigations of the lunar southern pole. In November 2009, Aerospace sent JPL updated and improved image formation software that can resolve features four meters in range and eight meters in cross-range. This efficient image formation software is much faster, and was able to process approximately 130,000 data sets during a 45-minute radar observation campaign. The image formation software, originally developed for Air Force customers, was enhanced to include improved autofocus algorithms, which are more accurate, much more efficient, and can vary the image focus based on variations in terrain elevation. NASA would like to achieve four-meter cross-range resolution for the topographic radar maps, which will require longer-duration radar observations. Aerospace is also continuing its work on improving the signal-processing capability. This mapping project for JPL has provided Aerospace the opportunity to improve tools (both software and computer infrastructure) and image-processing algorithms that will benefit all users of this technology.