Missions

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission

Mission Website:  http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission is one of the Tier 1 missions recommended by the U.S. National Research Council Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space for launch as early as possible in the 2010-2019 decade ("Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond," National Academies Press, 2007).  SMAP was successfully launched on January 31, 2015 from Vandenberg Air Force Base onboard a Delta II launch vehicle.  It has currently reached its science orbit and configuration (spinning at 14.6 rpm at an altitude of 685 km, enabling global mapping of soil moisture and freeze-thaw state every 2-3 days).  The SMAP observatory and instruments are in the final stages of their on-orbit checkout, with routine science operations scheduled to begin in early May, 2015 as the SMAP Project enters into a year-long period to calibrate and validate all SMAP data products.  SMAP data products are generated within the project's Science Data System and are made available publicly through two NASA-designated data centers, the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
 
SMAP uses a 1.4 GHz microwave radiometer, a high-resolution 1.2 GHz radar, and a combination of the two instruments to measure surface soil moisture and freeze-thaw state, providing new opportunities for scientific advances and societal benefits.  Direct measurements of soil moisture and freeze-thaw state will aid understanding of regional and global water cycles, ecosystem productivity, and the processes that link the water, energy, and carbon cycles.  Soil moisture and freeze-thaw state information provided by SMAP at high resolution will also enable improvements to weather and climate forecasts, flood prediction and drought monitoring, and measurement of net CO2 uptake in forested regions.

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission

GPM

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is an international network of satellites that provide the next-generation global observations of rain and snow. Building upon the success of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the GPM concept centers on the deployment of a "Core" satellite carrying an advanced radar / radiometer system to measure precipitation from space and serve as a reference standard to unify precipitation measurements from a constellation of research and operational satellites.

Through improved measurements of precipitation globally, the GPM mission will help to advance our understanding of Earth's water and energy cycle, improve forecasting of extreme events that cause natural hazards and disasters, and extend current capabilities in using accurate and timely information of precipitation to directly benefit society. GPM, initiated by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a global successor to TRMM, comprises a consortium of international space agencies, including the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and others.

The GPM Core Observatory launched on February 27th, 2014 at 1:37pm EST from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

Websites: http://pmm.nasa.gov and https://www.nasa.gov/gpm

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE; http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace/) produces a new, highly accurate map of the Earth's gravity field each month, based on precise measurements of the locations of and distance between two identical satellites orbiting in tandem. So accurate are these maps that differences between them can be used to infer mass redistributions at and below Earth's surface, and in particular, changes in terrestrial water storage (the sum of ground water, soil moisture, surface water, snow, and ice). These observations are now contributing to an improved understanding of the global water cycle.

EOS-Aqua Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E)

In support of the Earth Science Enterprise's goals, NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) Aqua Satellite was launched from Vandenberg AFB, California on May 4, 2002 at 02:54:58 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The primary goal of Aqua, as the name implies, is to gather information about water in the Earth's system. Equipped with six state-of-the-art instruments, Aqua will collect data on global precipitation, evaporation, and the cycling of water. This information will help scientists all over the world to better understand the Earth's water cycle and determine if the water cycle is accelerating as a result of climate change.

The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - EOS (AMSR-E; http://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/AMSR/) is a one of the six sensors aboard Aqua. AMSR-E is passive microwave radiometer, modified from the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite-II (ADEOS-II) AMSR, designed and provided by JAXA (contractor: Mitsubishi Electric Corporation). It observes atmospheric, land, oceanic, and cryospheric parameters, including precipitation, sea surface temperatures, ice concentrations, snow water equivalent, surface wetness, wind speed, atmospheric cloud water, and water vapor.

EOS-Terra and EOS-Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)

MODIS (or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) is a key instrument aboard the Terra (EOS AM) and Aqua (EOS PM) satellites. Terra's orbit around the Earth is timed so that it passes from north to south across the equator in the morning, while Aqua passes south to north over the equator in the afternoon. Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS are viewing the entire Earth's surface every 1 to 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands, or groups of wavelengths (see MODIS Technical Specifications). These data will improve our understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on the land, in the oceans, and in the lower atmosphere. MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making sound decisions concerning the protection of our environment.

Websites: 

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2)

ICESat-2 (Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite-2) is the 2nd-generation of the orbiting laser altimeter ICESat scheduled for launch in late 2015.

The Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission

The Surface Water Ocean Topography mission brings together two communities focused on a better understanding of the world's oceans and its terrestrial surface waters. Our understanding of the oceanic circulation at mesoscales and smaller, where most of the ocean's kinetic energy and its dissipation takes place, is poor. Likewise, the role of internal tides as sources of mixing as well as coastal processes such as upwelling, jets, and fronts are not well understood. Given our basic need for fresh water, the most important hydrologic observations that can be made in a basin are of the temporal and spatial variations in water volumes stored in rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Unfortunately, we have poor knowledge of the global dynamics of terrestrial surface waters as well as their interactions with coastal oceans in estuaries.

The SWOT Satellite Mission and its wide-swath altimetry technology is means of completely covering the world's oceans and freshwater bodies with repeated elevation measurements. SWOT is a truly cooperative and collegial joint international effort consisting of researchers worldwide. A hallmark of SWOT is our welcoming of everyone interested in solving ocean and water related problems.

Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)

The restructured Joint Polar Satellite System (formerly -- National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)), will address NOAA’s requirements to provide global environmental data necessary for NOAA’s missions to monitor the earth, manage resources, support the Nation’s economy, and protect lives and property. source: NOAA