NASA Starts Downloading Japanese Radar Imagery

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NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System began downloading imagery April 12 of North and South America taken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Advanced Land Observing Satellite, also known as Daichi, the U.S. and Japanese space agencies announced the same day.

By combining U.S. and Japanese data-relay satellite resources, the two agencies expect to more than double the quantity of Earth observation data collected to study earthquake hazards, forest declines and changing water resources in the Americas, NASA said in a press release. Until now, JAXA Earth Observation Center has been relying exclusively on Japan’s Kodama Data Relay Test Satellite to receive Daichi data.

“This is a great example of the value to be gained through international collaboration between the world’s Earth-observing nations,” NASA Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich said in a statement. “By working together and sharing satellite resources like this, we can produce more data more rapidly and cost-effectively than if each of us went it alone.”

The data transmission agreement concluded in 2009 gives NASA and U.S. government-affiliated scientists access to data gathered by the Advanced Land Observing Satellite’s phased-array, L-band synthetic aperture radar. The instrument, known as PALSAR, precisely measures the distances to the Earth’s surface under all weather conditions day and night. The Alaska Satellite Facility, a NASA data center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, will process and distribute the PALSAR data, which will be used for detecting ground surface changes associated with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides, among other phenomena.

“The expanded [Advanced Land Observing Satellite] data flow will significantly improve our scientists’ ability to monitor regions at risk to earthquake hazards, such as Haiti and Chile,” Craig Dobson, NASA’s natural hazards program manager, said in a statement. “Now we will be able to see very small changes in surface elevation associated with the build-up and release of strain in seismic zones over virtually the entire area of the Americas, with measurements made as often as every 46 days. Scientists also will be able to monitor seasonal changes in groundwater resources.”