New NASA satellite tracks soil moisture for SMAP mission

By on February 13, 2015

The United Launch Alliance has launched a new satellite that will monitor soil moisture changes across the globe, according to NASASpaceFlight. The mission is called the Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP.

During the satellite’s three-year mission, it will measure the distribution of water in soil around the world and help scientists learn the role that soil moisture plays in the global water cycle. Beyond that, NASA scientists say that SMAP data will improve weather forecasts, answer key questions related to climate change and aid in resource management and emergency planning.

The SMAP satellite has a three-panel solar array that provides 1.45 kilowatts of power to active and passive remote sensors it carries. These rely on radar backscatter and microwave emissions to measure surface water content.

The radar images at a resolution of 0.6 to 1.8 miles. A radiometer on the SMAP satellite is more accurate but has a lower resolution of 25 miles.

Top image: NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive mission will measure the distribution of water in soil around the world. (Credit: NASA)

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