NASA's Gulfstream III aircraft No. 992 lifts off from U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., for a flight to its home base at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston following installation of a synthetic aperture radar in an underbelly pod at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility. (NASA / Tony Landis) › View Larger Image
Technicians recently installed a pod-mounted Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, under the fuselage of Johnson Space Center's Gulfstream III aircraft No. 992 during its brief deployment at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
A pod housing an Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. is mounted beneath the fuselage of Johnson Space Center's Gulfstream III aircraft No. 992. (NASA / Tony Landis) › View Larger Image Developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the UAVSAR uses a technique called interferometry to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth's surface. The UAVSAR installed on JSC's Gulfstream III No. 992 transmits radar signals in what is known as the P-band of frequencies, and is capable of penetrating through substantial vegetation canopies and soil to depths of 4 feet (1.2 meters).
The aircraft returned to Johnson in late February to prepare for its first science mission, the Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface, or AirMOSS, study.
AirMOSS will gather high-resolution measurements of soil moisture in the root zone of plants over various North American ecosystems, quantify the impact of variations in soil moisture on the estimates of regional carbon fluctuations, and extrapolate the estimates of those fluctuations to a continental scale for all of North America. The June mission will use extensive ground, tower and aircraft measurements to validate model estimates.
A second G-III, based at Dryden, also carries a UAVSAR that operates in L-band frequency configuration in an underbelly pod. Since 2008, this aircraft has been flying interferometry missions, including earthquake fault measurements, volcanic imaging, soil moisture and wetland studies. The aircraft flies a repeat path over the investigation site days to months after the initial survey to determine changes in Earth's surface.
For more about JPL's UAVSAR and its capabilities, visit: http://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/