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NASA's Soil Moisture Mapper takes first 'SMAPshots'

09 March 2015

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Fresh off the recent successful deployment of its 20-foot (6-metre) reflector antenna and associated boom arm, NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has successfully completed a two-day test of its science instruments.

The observatory's radar and radiometer instruments were successfully operated for the first time with SMAP's antenna in a non-spinning mode on 27 and 28 February. The test was a key step in preparation for the planned spin-up of SMAP's antenna to approximately 15 revolutions per minute in late March. The spin-up will be performed in a two-step process after additional tests and maneuvers adjust the observatory to its final science orbit over the next couple of weeks.

Based on the data received, mission controllers concluded the radar and radiometer performed as expected. The controllers are based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

SMAP launched 31 January on a minimum three-year mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed. The mission will help scientists understand the links in Earth's water, energy and carbon cycles; help reduce uncertainties in predicting weather and climate; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards such as floods and droughts.

Source: National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Goddard Space Flight Center - First image from SMAP

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