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Soil Moisture Active Passive

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Title: Soil Moisture Active Passive  
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Soil Moisture Active Passive

Soil Moisture Active Passive
Artist rendition of SMAP
Mission type Environmental
Operator NASA
Website //
Mission duration 3 years
Start of mission
Launch date 29 January 2015[1]
Rocket Delta II 7320-10C[2]
Launch site Vandenberg SLC-2W
Contractor United Launch Alliance
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Sun-synchronous
Perigee 660 kilometres (410 mi)
Apogee 685 kilometres (426 mi)
Inclination 98 degrees
Epoch Planned

Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) is an American environmental research satellite. Part of the first tier of missions recommended for NASA by the Earth Science Decadal Survey,[3] it is scheduled for launch in 29 January 2015.[1] It is one of the first Earth observation satellites being developed by NASA in response to the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey.[4]

Mission overview

SMAP will provide measurements of the land surface soil moisture and freeze-thaw state with near-global revisit coverage in 2–3 days. SMAP surface measurements will be coupled with hydrologic models to infer soil moisture conditions in the root zone. These measurements will enable science applications users to:

  1. Understand processes that link the terrestrial water, energy, and carbon cycles.
  2. Estimate global water and energy fluxes at the land surface.
  3. Quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes.
  4. Enhance weather and climate forecast skill.
  5. Develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capability.

SMAP observations will be acquired for a period of at least three years after launch. A comprehensive validation, science, and applications program will be implemented, and all data will be made available publicly through the NASA archive centers.

Measurement concept

The SMAP observatory includes a dedicated spacecraft and instrument suite that will be launched into a near-polar, Sun-synchronous orbit on an expendable launch vehicle. The SMAP measurement system consists of a radiometer (passive) instrument and a synthetic aperture radar (active) instrument operating with multiple polarizations in the L-band range (1.20-1.41 GHz).

The active and passive sensors provide coincident measurements of the surface emission and backscatter. The instruments sense conditions in the top 5 cm of soil through moderate vegetation cover to yield globally mapped estimates of soil moisture and its freeze-thaw state. The combined active and passive measurement approach takes advantage of the spatial resolution of the radar and the sensing accuracy of the radiometer.

System characteristics

The radar and radiometer share a single feed and deployable 6m AstroMesh reflector antenna system, supplied by Astro Aerospace in Carpinteria CA, that rotates around the nadir axis making conical scans of the surface. The wide swath provides near-global revisit 2–3 days.

SMAP System Characteristics

Program description

SMAP is a directed mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA with a target launch date in November 2014. The SMAP project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL, with participation by the Goddard Space Flight Center GSFC. SMAP builds on the heritage and risk reduction activities of NASA's ESSP Hydros Mission.[5]

Science and applications

SMAP observations will be used to characterize hydrologic and ecosystem processes including land-atmosphere exchanges of water, energy, and carbon. Among the users of SMAP data will be hydrologists, weather forecasters, climate scientists and agricultural and water resource managers.[1] Additional users include fire hazard and flood disaster managers, disease control and prevention managers, emergency planners and policy makers.[1] SMAP soil moisture and freeze-thaw information will directly benefit several societal applications areas, including:

Weather and climate forecasting

Initialization of numerical weather prediction models and seasonal climate models with accurate soil moisture information will extend forecast lead times and enhance prediction skill.


SMAP soil moisture information will improve the monitoring and forecasting of drought conditions, enabling new capabilities for mitigating drought impacts.

Floods and landslides

Hydrologic forecast systems calibrated and initialized with high-resolution soil moisture fields will lead to improved flood forecasts and will provide essential information on the potential for landslides.

Agricultural productivity

Soil moisture observations from SMAP will lead to improvements in crop yield forecasts and will enhance the capabilities of crop water stress decision support systems for agricultural productivity.[1]

Human health

Improved seasonal soil moisture forecasts will directly benefit famine early warning systems. Benefits will also be realized through improved predictions of heat stress and virus spread rates, and improved disaster preparation and response.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Buis, Alan (October 15, 2014). "NASA Soil Moisture Mapper Arrives at Launch Site". JPL News (NASA). Retrieved 2014-10-24. 
  2. ^ Ray, Justin. "NASA gives the Delta 2 rocket a new lease on life". SpaceFlightNow. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Decadal Survey". NASA. 
  4. ^ O'Neill, Peggy; Entekhabi, Dara; Njoku, Eni; Kellogg, Kent. "The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission: Overview". NASA. Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Stéphane Bélair1, Ralph Girard, and Thomas Piekutowski, Science Plan and Possible Canadian Contributions to the Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) Mission, Microwave Remote Sensing for Land Hydrology Research and Applications was held on October 20-22, 2008, in Oxnard, California, USA
    Quote: "As SMAP was emerging from the ashes of HYDROS in 2007, CSA exchanged with NASA on the possibility of renewing their partnership. CSA, in collaboration with other Canadian Government Departments, is currently developing plans regarding possible scientific and technical contributions to the new mission. The scientific activities would include both government and academic partners."

External links

  • NASA/JPL Soil Moisture Active-Passive Project Web Site
  • NASA/JPL Global Climate Change web site
  • NASA's New Studies of Earth's Seas, Skies and Soils
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