The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission uses advanced radar imaging to provide unprecedented, global integrated measurements of the causes and consequences of Earth’s land surface changes. The mission is a partnership between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The satellite is designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet’s most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides. Data collected from NISAR will reveal information about the evolution and state of the Earth’s crust, help scientists better understand our planet’s processes and changing climate, and aid future resource and hazard management. NISAR is currently scheduled to launch in late 2021 and to have a minimum mission lifetime of three years with consumables up to 15 years.

Artist rendering of the NISAR satellite.

Artist rendering of the NISAR satellite.

NISAR is a joint mission with L-band and S-band SAR systems on board with capability for global land surface observations twice every 12 days and low latency data delivery in the event of a disaster. NISAR’s L-band radar instrument will provide all-weather, day/night imaging of nearly the entire land and ice masses of the Earth repeated 4-6 times per month, and the S-band instrument will provide additional coverage of India and parts of the polar regions. Depending upon the operating mode, NISAR’s orbiting radars can image at resolutions of 3-50 meters. This high spatial resolution, and regular, consistent repeat imaging can help detect small-scale changes enabling us to track dynamic changes as conditions evolve. 

All NISAR data will be processed into a set of standard polarimetric (PolSAR) image and interferometric SAR (InSAR) data products. The standard products include polarization-dependent images, interferograms, and interferometric coherence. The latter two can be used for change detection and for measurement of surface displacement. In addition to the standard acquisition and processing stream, an urgent response capability will be available through which lower latency (<12 hrs) products can be made available. Here ‘latency’ is the time between when the image is acquired by the instrument and when the products are delivered (this encompasses data downlink, transfer, processing to form products, and product delivery to an archive). The time between when an event occurs and when the next NISAR image of the area can be made depends upon when the next pass of the satellite over the event location occurs and varies within the maximum 6-day period for coverage considering that the area could be imaged on either ascending or descending orbits. At continental U.S. latitudes, there is a 77% probability of imaging any location within 4 days of a disaster.

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