Preparing the NISAR Science Payload for a Trip to India
The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) science instrument payload sits in its specially designed, climate-controlled shipping container in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Feb. 23, 2023. Engineers and technicians used a crane to lift the payload and mount it vertically onto a stage at the far end of the container before tilting it horizontally. The payload was then shipped to Bengaluru, India, on March 3, arriving on March 6. There it will be integrated with the satellite body, or bus, and undergo further testing leading up to launch in 2024.
The NISAR mission – a joint effort between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation – will observe nearly all the planet's land and ice surfaces twice every 12 days, measuring movements in extremely fine detail. It will also survey forests and agricultural regions to understand carbon exchange between plants and the atmosphere. NISAR's science payload will be the most advanced radar system ever launched as part of a NASA mission, 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.
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, then conducting tests to verify they work well together.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, leads the U.S. component of NISAR. In addition to the L-band radar, NASA is also providing the radar reflector antenna, the deployable boom, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder, and payload data subsystem. In addition to the S-band radar, ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the launch vehicle, and associated launch services and satellite mission operations.