A state-of-the-art innovation, NISAR, stands as an Earth-observing radar satellite marked by assiduity. Contrived through a collaborative effort between the Indian Space Research Agency and the United States, this groundbreaking satellite achieved a significant milestone on November 13. Emerging triumphant from a rigorous 21-day test regimen and meticulously scrutinizing its capabilities in confronting the extremes of temperature and the vacuum of space, NISAR epitomizes an unparalleled achievement in hardware collaboration between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
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Scheduled for launch in early 2024, the satellite is poised to embark on a comprehensive survey, observing nearly every inch of the Earth’s land and ice surfaces twice within a 12-day interval. The sophisticated radar system is poised to monitor surface movements with unprecedented precision, capturing nuances down to fractions of an inch. Its applications extend to tracking seismic events, landslides, and volcanic activity and discerning transformative changes in diverse ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands.
Moreover, the thermal vacuum test, a pivotal phase in the satellite’s preparation, transpired at ISRO’s Satellite Integration and Test Establishment in Bengaluru, subjecting the satellite to a battery of challenges mirroring the rigors of space missions. NISAR, devoid of complete coverage in gold-hued thermal blanketing, entered the vacuum chamber on October 19.
Subsequently, engineers subjected the satellite to an 80-hour “cold soak” at 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius), followed by an equally prolonged “hot soak” at up to 122 F (50 C). These thermal oscillations mirror the diverse temperature extremes the spacecraft will encounter in its orbital dance between sunlight and darkness.
Throughout this period, ISRO and JPL teams worked tirelessly, conducting exhaustive tests on the satellite’s thermal systems and its primary science instruments, the L-band and S-band radars, under the most extreme temperature conditions they will encounter in the unforgiving expanse of space.