Coconuts broken, lucky peanuts shared; NASA-ISRO Satellite ‘NISAR’ getting ready for 2024 launch

Two broken coconuts lay in the frame, as the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO) received a jar of peanuts from a top NASA official, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in United States.

While the small jar of peanuts and coconuts in the photograph has gotten netizens going nuts, it is actually the sophisticated, space-grade science equipment (model of which is seen in the cover photograph) placed to the rear of the dignitaries, that must hog all the limelight.

Seen towards the rear of the frame is a model of the crucial component of the first-ever India-US joint satellite mission known as NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar(NISAR). The equipment was being accorded a ceremonial send-off from NASA”s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, by following the Indian tradition of breaking coconuts during an auspicious event and the NASA-JPL tradition of sharing “lucky peanuts” during a high-profile mission.

NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) observatory being jointly developed by the American and Indian Space agencies. It is meant to carry L and S dual-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), a highly powerful, all-weather, day and night mean of imaging from space, that can help researchers and scientists observe changes in Earth’s land and ice surfaces down to fractions of an inch. Since early 2021, engineers and technicians at JPL have been integrating and testing NISAR’s two radar systems – the L-band SAR provided by JPL and the S-band SAR built by ISRO. 


JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, leads the U.S. component of the project and is providing the mission’s L-band SAR. NASA is also providing the radar reflector antenna, the deployable boom, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder, and a payload data subsystem. ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the S-band SAR, the launch vehicle, and associated launch services and satellite mission operations.

NISAR will gather radar data with a drum-shaped reflector antenna almost 40 feet (12 meters) in diameter. It will use a signal-processing technique called interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR, to observe changes on Earth, that can be used to predict natural disasters, track climate change.

“The observations NISAR makes will help researchers measure the ways in which Earth is constantly changing by detecting both subtle and dramatic movements. Slow-moving variations of a land surface can precede earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, and data about such movement could help communities prepare for natural hazards. Measurements of melting sea ice and ice sheets will improve understanding of the pace and impacts of climate change, including sea level rise” said NASA. 

Over the course of its three-year prime mission, the satellite will observe nearly the entire planet every 12 days, making observations day and night, in all weather conditions. “Today we come one step closer to fulfilling the immense scientific potential NASA and ISRO envisioned for NISAR when we joined forces more than eight years ago,” Chairman, ISRO, Somanath said. JPL Director, Laurie Leshin said, “By delivering measurements at unprecedented precision, NISAR’s promise is new understanding and positive impact in communities. Our collaboration with ISRO exemplifies what’s possible when we tackle complex challenges together.”

Later this month, NASA-JPL will move the SUV-size satellite payload into a special cargo container for a 9,000-mile (14,000-kilometer) flight to India’s U R Rao Satellite Centre in the city of Bengaluru. There it will be merged with the spacecraft bus(satellite structure) in preparation for a 2024 launch from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh state. 

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