SMAP Mission Overview
January 31, 2015
| First mission data|
From mud, to permafrost, to drought-stricken cropland, Earth's soil holds vital information about the planet's water. Understanding where water is stored, where it is going, and how fast it is moving is critical as the human population grows, demand for water increases, the climate changes, and weather patterns shift.
The SMAP mission will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze-thaw state. SMAP measures the amount of water in the top 5 cm (2 inches) of soil everywhere on the Earth's surface every three days. These data will be used to
further understanding of processes that link the water, energy, and carbon cycles;
enhance weather and climate prediction models;
quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes; and
develop improved flood-prediction and drought-monitoring capabilities.
Instrument: The instrument includes a radiometer and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), operating at L-band (1.20-1.41 GHz), that measure surface emission and backscatter, sensing soil conditions through moderate vegetation cover.
Observatory: The SMAP spacecraft features an instrument suite deployed by an expendable launch vehicle into a 680-km, near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit, with equator crossings at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. local time. SMAP provides global coverage within three days at the equator and two days at boreal latitudes.
Operations: SMAP science measurements will be acquired for three years. A comprehensive validation program will be carried out after launch to assess the accuracies of soil-moisture and freeze-thaw estimates. Data products from the SMAP mission will be made available through the Alaska Satellite Facility DAAC and the NSIDC DAAC.
Michael Freilich, Director, NASA Earth Science Division
"On our home planet Earth, water is an essential requirement for life and for most human activities. We must understand the details of how water moves within and between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land if we are to predict changes to our climate and the availability of water resources."