NISAR mission

NISAR mission

GS Paper - 3

Why in the news?

  • A senior official at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) recently disclosed that the launch of the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission is expected to take place in early 2024.
  • NISAR is designed to monitor natural phenomena and variations in Earth's intricate ecosystems.

NISAR Mission Overview:

Collaborative Development:

  • NASA and ISRO jointly developed the NISAR mission, showcasing international cooperation in space exploration.
  • The Low Earth Orbit observatory is a testament to shared technological advancements.

Mission Objective:

The primary aim is to observe and study natural processes occurring on Earth and monitor changes in its diverse ecosystems.

This objective underscores the mission's contribution to advancing our understanding of the planet's dynamic systems.

Mission Lifespan:

NISAR is designed for a mission lifespan of three years, during which it will collect valuable data for scientific analysis.

The finite duration ensures efficient resource utilization and planning for future missions.

Operational Details:

  • Surveying Schedule:
      • The satellite follows a systematic schedule, surveying all of Earth's land and ice-covered surfaces every 12 days.
      • The use of ascending and descending passes enhances comprehensive data collection, allowing for a holistic view of changes over time.
  • Launch Details:
    • The mission is scheduled to launch onboard ISRO's GSLV Mark-II from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
    • The launch location and vehicle choice emphasize the strategic partnership between NASA and ISRO.


  • Disaster Monitoring:
      • NISAR serves as a reliable data source for disaster monitoring and mitigation.
      • Its capabilities are particularly valuable for observing and responding to natural disasters such as volcanoes and hurricanes.
  • Groundwater Tracking:
      • The mission includes the tracking of groundwater usage effects, providing insights into the Earth's water dynamics.
      • This application contributes to better understanding and managing water resources.
  • Ice Sheet Melt Rates:
      • NISAR's ability to measure ice sheet melt rates contributes critical data for climate research.
      • Monitoring changes in ice sheets aids in predicting and understanding global sea level rise.
  • Vegetation Distribution:
    • Observing changes in global vegetation distribution provides crucial information for ecological studies.
    • The data collected aids in assessing the health and dynamics of Earth's ecosystems.

Payload and Structure:

  • SAR Technology:
      • The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload, operating in both L and S bands, utilizes advanced Sweep SAR technology for high-resolution data.
      • This technology enhances the mission's ability to capture detailed and accurate information.
  • Observatory Structure:
    • The SAR payloads are mounted on the Integrated Radar Instrument Structure (IRIS), working in conjunction with the spacecraft bus.
    • This integrated structure forms the observatory, ensuring the coordinated operation of the mission's instruments.

Operational Working:

  • Data Consistency:
      • The coordinated operation of L and S band radars ensures spatially and temporally consistent data.
      • This approach enables scientists to analyze changes in Earth's ecosystems, ice mass, biomass, sea level, groundwater, and natural disasters comprehensively.
  • Scientific Insights:
    • NISAR's data provides scientists with valuable insights into various aspects of Earth's systems, contributing to a deeper understanding of our planet's dynamics.
    • The mission supports ongoing research in climate science, geology, and environmental studies.

Special Features:

  • Antenna Reflector:
      • The 39-foot stationary antenna reflector, constructed from a gold-plated wire mesh, is a specialized feature of NISAR.
      • This reflector is crucial for focusing signals emitted and received, ensuring the mission's data collection precision.
  • Mission Status:
  • Testing Milestones:
    • Thermal Vacuum Testing in Bengaluru validates the spacecraft's capability to operate effectively under extreme temperature conditions.
    • Successful completion of Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing ensures the mission's resilience to interference.
    • Vibration tests, simulating the harsh launch environment, ensure the satellite's structural integrity.
    • Ongoing acoustic testing aims to further verify the satellite's robustness and readiness for space deployment.

Unique Features of NISAR:

  • Reliable High-Resolution Data:
      • NISAR offers a substantial volume of dependable high-resolution data throughout its operational lifetime.
      • This data reliability is crucial for scientific research and various applications.
  • Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Capability:
      • NISAR utilizes SAR, enabling it to penetrate clouds and collect data day and night, regardless of weather conditions.
      • This feature is particularly beneficial for applications such as forest management, agriculture monitoring, and adverse weather forecasting.
  • Versatility in Applications:
      • The SAR technology of NISAR facilitates a wide range of applications, making it a valuable tool for scientific research and practical purposes.
      • It can be utilized in fields such as agriculture, environmental monitoring, and disaster management.
  • Open Science and Data Policy:
      • NISAR distinguishes itself with an open science and open data policy.
      • Data from NISAR will be stored in servers located in India and the US, and it will be made accessible to the public as soon as it is adequately processed.
      • This commitment to transparency enhances the potential for widespread use of NISAR data.
  • International Collaboration:
      • NISAR represents a collaborative effort between India and the US, fostering international cooperation in space exploration and scientific endeavors.
      • This collaboration contributes to the global sharing of knowledge and resources.
  • Enhanced Accessibility:
    • By making data available to the public promptly, NISAR ensures that researchers, scientists, and various stakeholders can access and utilize the information for diverse purposes.
    • This accessibility enhances the impact and utility of NISAR data across different domains.

Contributions of ISRO and NASA

  • NASA's Contributions:
    • L-band SAR: Provided by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
    • Radar Reflector Antenna: NASA is responsible for supplying this crucial component.
    • Deployable Boom: NASA contributes the deployable boom for the mission.
    • High-Rate Communication Subsystem: NASA provides the subsystem designed for efficient transmission of science data.
    • GPS Receivers: Supplied by NASA to enhance navigation and positioning capabilities.
    • Solid-State Recorder: NASA contributes the solid-state recorder for data storage.
    • Payload Data Subsystem: Provided by NASA as a vital part of the mission's payload handling.
  • ISRO's Contributions:
    • Spacecraft Bus: The U R Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, part of ISRO, supplies the spacecraft bus.
    • S-band SAR Electronics: ISRO is responsible for providing the S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar electronics.
    • Launch Vehicle: ISRO manages and provides the launch vehicle for the mission.
    • Launch Services: ISRO oversees the associated launch services for the mission.
    • Satellite Mission Operations: The U R Rao Satellite Centre, ISRO, takes charge of satellite mission operations.

Benefits of the Mission

  • NISAR enhances understanding of Earth system processes and climate change through comprehensive data collection.
  • It facilitates quicker response times and more precise risk assessments, improving disaster management and response strategies.
  • Data from NISAR related to crop growth, soil moisture, and land use enhances agricultural management for ensuring food security.
  • The mission addresses challenges linked to infrastructural development, such as oil spills, urbanization, and deforestation.
  • NISAR monitors environmental changes, contributing to sustainable development strategies.
  • The mission assesses the impact of climate change, including ice-melt, sea-level rise, and patterns of carbon storage.
  • NISAR's data is valuable for developing data-driven solutions in disaster management.
  • The mission contributes to global sustainability efforts by addressing key environmental and climate-related challenges.

India-U.S. space cooperation

  • 2020 India-U.S. 2+2 dialogue emphasized joint efforts in Space Situational Awareness.
  • Aim: Ensure safe, secure, and sustainable use of outer space.
  • Both India and the USA are prominent space nations with civil and military space applications.
  • Commitment to Space Situational Awareness reflects shared interest in responsible space utilization.
  • History of collaboration in satellite navigation, enhancing capabilities and applications.


NISAR is a team effort involving NASA and ISRO. It's like a big project that can help us learn more about Earth's environment, climate change, and keeping an eye on disasters. This collaboration shows how working together internationally can help us discover new things and create advanced technology.


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