SMAP Team Investigating Radar Instrument Anomaly

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission produces high-resolution global maps of soil moisture to track water availability around our planet and guide policy decisions. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission produces high-resolution global maps of soil moisture to track water availability around our planet and guide policy decisions. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

July 11, 2015 – Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are assessing an anomaly with the radar instrument on NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite observatory. The radar is one of two science instruments on SMAP used to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed.

On July 7, at about 2:16 p.m. PDT, SMAP’s radar halted its transmissions. All other components of the spacecraft continued to operate normally, including the radiometer instrument that is collecting science data.

An anomaly team has been convened at JPL and is reviewing observatory and instrument telemetry and science data. Telemetry indicates no other issues with the spacecraft.

SMAP launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket on January 31, 2015 on a minimum three-year mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed. Its mission is to help scientists understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in Earth system modeling; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP data have additional practical applications, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

SMAP is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, with instrument hardware and science contributions made by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. JPL is responsible for project management, system engineering, radar instrumentation, mission operations and the ground data system. Goddard is responsible for the radiometer instrument. Both centers collaborate on science data processing and delivery to the Alaska Satellite Facility, in Fairbanks, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, at the University of Colorado in Boulder, for public distribution and archiving. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.