SERVIR: Expanding Sensor Networks from the Ground to the International Space Station
With Earth Day around the corner, it's a chance to look at how investigations done on the International Space Station give back to our planet. Through global observations from space, researchers have a unique point of view by which to approach environmental studies and disaster analysis. One such instrument is SERVIR
, NASA and USAID's
joint-venture environmental monitoring system, which is adding a new tool to enhance its research and global observation capabilities via the International Space Station.
, which means "to serve" in Spanish, provides analyses and applications from space-based remotely sensed information to help developing nations' decision making regarding natural disasters, climate change, and other environmental threats. The latest instrument for advancing their mission is called the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System, or ISERV
is an imaging system designed and built at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. ISERV will soon be installed in the Window Observational Research Facility, or WORF
, in the space station's Destiny module. Once in place, researchers on the ground will be able to task the camera to acquire image data of specific areas of the globe, as viewed through Destiny's Earth-facing science window.
The system, based on a modified commercial telescope and driven by custom software, will use downward viewpoint to obtain near-real-time data about Earth-based environmental disasters, humanitarian crises and environmental threats. ISERV will then transmit that data within hours to scientists back on Earth.
"Images captured from ISERV on the International Space Station will provide valuable information back here on Earth," said Dan Irwin, SERVIR program director at the Marshall Center. "It will provide new data and information from space related to disasters, humanitarian crises and the increased effects of climate variability on human populations."
ISERV is a pathfinder instrument, the first of a new series of high-value instruments bound for the space station each featuring progressively more advanced sensors. Future versions of ISERV, if funded, eventually could be mounted on the exterior of the station for an even clearer, wider view of Earth.
As part of getting the instrument ready for flight to the station, the ISERV Pathfinder underwent a final fit check in the high-fidelity WORF trainer at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; the trainer simulates the WORF rack and the high-quality 20-inch science window in the Destiny module. It was then packed and shipped to Japan for final launch preparations. The payload will be flown to space aboard the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's HTV-3 vehicle, which is set to launch July 21 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.
The Payload Operations team at Marshall Space Flight Center is creating computer-based training materials to be used by the space station crew to train for ISERV assembly and installation in the WORF rack. ISERV is scheduled to begin normal operations aboard station by Nov. 1.
"The addition of ISERV will enhance the growing set of tools aboard the station to monitor Earth," said Julie Robinson, International Space Station program scientist at Johnson Space Center. "It reaffirms the station's commitment to helping solve global issues."
ISERV development was funded as a collaborative effort between NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate's Earth Science Division Applied Science Program as part of the NASA/USAID SERVIR partnership.
SERVIR conducts its operations from hubs located in the regions it serves. SERVIR has active hubs in Kenya at the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development and in Nepal at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and plans to expand the network in the next year. The hubs consist of teams of scientific experts who develop satellite and other geospatial data into useful information for governments and non-governmental organizations in the host nations.
Each of these hubs addresses issues ranging from disaster analysis to environmental monitoring, air quality and public health, climate change, biodiversity and short-term weather prediction. Integrating all these outputs gives governments, emergency responders and other decision-makers in developing nations a better view of their environment and more information for adapting to life on our ever-changing planet.
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.