The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite is NASA’s latest project, and it will be deployed into space on January 29 by 6:20 a.m. or 9:20 a.m. Eastern Time with the ultimate technology of helping farmers increase farm yields, deal with droughts, and predict natural disasters.
Launching into space at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the NASA’s SMAP technology is fully equipped to map global soil moisture and provide meteorologists with the needed information to assist agricultural objectives.
According to Nadendra Das, a NASA scientist, “SMAP can assist in predicting how dramatic drought will be, and then its data can help farmers plan their recovery from drought.”
The SMAP satellite has a dish that measures 19.7 feet across, and comprises of a radar, a radiometer, and “the largest rotating mesh ever deployed in space.” And to underscore the level of engineering efforts that went into making the mesh, Wendy Edelstein of the Jet Propulsion Lab says, “Making sure we don’t have snags, that the mesh doesn’t hang up on the supports and tear when it’s deploying – all of that requires very careful engineering.”
This spacecraft technology does not have components that are redundant; it has passive and active technology to measure the variations that occur between microwaves produced by soil water and greenhouse emissions from our earth. The active components transmit signals and the passive tech collects data that is generated from signals sent out by its active tool.
Enj Njoku of NASA explains that “The radiometer provides more accurate soil moisture but a coarse resolution of about 40 kilometers [25 miles] across. With the radar, you can create very high resolution, but it’s less accurate. To get both an accurate and a high-resolution measurement, we process the two signals together.” This means that SMAP technology overlaps between active and passive techs to provide a single high resolution map.
It is not yet known in what particular areas SMAP would influence farming in general, but it is believed that once launched, it will help farmers bounce back from a bad yield. However, NASA will be providing more information on what it means for everyone in general once it is launched.