NASA’s SMAP Satellite Loses A Science Instrument

The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite launched just seven months ago has lost the use of one of two science instruments, the space agency has announced, adding that the mission to map global soil moisture will continue.

On July 7, the radar instrument aboard the satellite stopped transmitting due to a problem with a high-power amplifier. NASA says an anomaly team has been convened at Jet Propulsion Laboratory to find out whether normal operation can be restored.

An unsuccessful attempt was made to power up the radar on Aug. 24. It was determined that all possible options had been exhausted and the radar was not recoverable, a NASA statement said.

The SMAP satellite’s three-year, $916 million mission is to map soil moisture around the globe and determine whether the soils are frozen or thawed.

According to NASA, in addition to increasing knowledge about Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles, its practical uses could include improving monitoring and predicting floods and droughts and improving weather forecasting and predictions for crop yields.

Dara Entekhabi, SMAP science team leader at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained in a statement that some planned applications of data will be impacted by the loss of the radar, but the mission will continue to produce “valuable science for important Earth system studies.”

Illustration: NASA