The international portion of the United States' next mission to study the Earth with spaceborne radar has arrived at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for testing.

The X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (X-SAR) instrument and its support equipment have arrived from Germany and will now undergo integration into the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C (SIR-C) structure at the Laboratory.

SIR-C/X-SAR will allow scientists to make highly detailed studies of the Earth's surface on a global scale, including new types of measurements such as biomass and soil moisture.

"The radar is a relatively new tool in the Earth observation family of instruments. It opens the door to a new spectrum of measurements," said Michael Sander, the SIR-C project manager at JPL. "The joint SIR-C/X-SAR mission is a major technical step forward in the capability of spaceborne radar instruments," he continued.

"With radar we can learn about the extent and health of vegetation cover of the Earth's surface," said Dr. Miriam Baltuck, SIR-C program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "We can also study moisture levels in the soil to better understand how water is transported between the land and the atmosphere."

The SIR-C/X-SAR antenna is scheduled to fly aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in late 1993 or early 1994 as part of the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL). It is designed for multiple flights.

X-SAR is built by Dornier and Alenia Spazio companies for the German space agency, Deutsche Agentur Fur Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA), and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).

The SIR-C antenna is the most massive piece of flight hardware ever built at JPL, and will nearly fill the entire shuttle cargo bay. Its mass, with supporting electronics, is 10,500 kg (23,100 lbs) and it measures 12 meters by 4 meters (39.4 feet by 13.1 feet). The X-SAR panels and electronics will be attached to the structure and tested during the next several months.

The SIR-C mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Earth Science and Applications Division within the Office of Space Science and Applications. X-SAR is managed by the Joint Project Office of ASI and DARA near Bonn, Germany.

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