SMAP Failure Won’t Affect ESA’s Biomass Mission

PARIS—The failure of the radar instrument on NASA’s Soil Moisture Lively Passive (SMAP) satellite tv for pc may have no impact on the European House Company’s buy of U.S. expertise comparable to what’s flying on SMAP, ESA Earth Commentary Director Volker Liebig mentioned Sept. 4.

In an interview, Liebig mentioned ESA is shifting ahead with the choice this autumn of a chief contractor for the $500 million Biomass mission, to launch in 2020. The competing industrial groups submitted their bids this summer time and a call is anticipated within the coming weeks from ESA’s Tender Analysis Board.

ESA and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have agreed to a Technical Help Settlement that permits JPL to debate deployable-antenna designs with the Europeans. JPL constructed the SMAP spacecraft and is liable for mission operations, whereas Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace supplied the unfurlable antenna.

With no European producer capable of produce the {hardware}, ESA plans to buy a 12-meter-diameter unfurlable antenna from both Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace of Carpenteria, California, or the one different U.S. firm that builds such programs, Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Florida.

Deployment of SMAP’s 6-meter-diameter antenna earlier this 12 months was carefully watched by ESA and went easily.

Liebig famous that SMAP instrument’s failure is within the energy amplifier, not the antenna, and as such has no bearing on Biomass. “For us it’s solely the construction we’re shopping for, and that labored completely,” Liebig mentioned. “The lack of the high-resolution imagery from SMAP may be very unhappy for the worldwide Earth statement neighborhood, not simply NASA. I’m not conscious of any comparable instrument being constructed wherever else. It’s an actual loss.”

SMAP’s JPL-built radar broke down July 7 due to a still-undiagnosed downside with the low-voltage energy provide on its high-power amplifier. The amplifier boosts the facility of the radar, which bounces radio alerts off the floor of Earth to derive data together with moisture ranges within the soil.

The SMAP radar was constructed on a novel design that had not been examined in house earlier than, a JPL official mentioned.

“This particular radar instrument and design has not flown earlier than, however its assemblies, together with the excessive energy amplifier and it’s energy provide, leverage parts of previous designs that JPL has flown,” Kent Kellogg, SMAP mission supervisor at JPL, wrote in a Sept. 4 e mail.

After JPL tried and didn’t restart the radar in a last-ditch effort Aug. 24, NASA headquarters appointed a mishap investigation board to look into the reason for failure. A separate JPL-led board may also examine, NASA mentioned in a press release.

Dropping the radar means SMAP can’t fulfill the Degree 1 science aims, or minimal success standards, NASA set in approving the mission. Nonetheless, the spacecraft stays wholesome and might proceed creating world soil-moisture maps each three days, albeit at a decrease decision than supposed.

SMAP will accomplish that with its second instrument: A passive radiometer constructed by NASA’s Goddard House Flight Middle. With the radiometer, SMAP can produce maps at a 40-kilometer spatial decision, that means a single pixel on a SMAP map equates to that many sq. kilometers. If the radar labored, the soil-moisture maps would have a decision of roughly 9 kilometers.

In the meantime, scientists will develop new algorithms to deal with SMAP’s restricted decision. NASA can also be assessing whether or not it’s attainable to enhance the radiometer’s decision, in line with the press launch.

SMAP was one of many Earth Science neighborhood’s high priorities within the decadal survey printed by the Nationwide Academies in 2007 — and in line with NASA’s high Earth Science official, even the degraded mission satisfies the aims scientists set out in that doc.

“The decadal survey known as for a mission that might make frequent world measurements of soil moisture and the freeze-thaw cycle with as excessive a decision as attainable,” NASA Earth Science Director Michael Freilich wrote in a Sept. 4 e mail. “Measurements from the radiometer-only SMAP mission will advance that science and type the premise for a number of functions in line with suggestions within the decadal survey.”

The radiometer-only outcomes are anticipated to be adequate, Freilich mentioned, that although SMAP’s radar failed, “NASA doesn’t intend to pursue a alternative mission at the moment.”

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