The synthetic aperture radar developed by JPL is carried in a pod slung beneath NASA's Gulfstream C-20A / G-III environmental science research aircraft. (NASA / Tom Tschida) A sophisticated airborne synthetic aperture radar system developed by the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is being used in a series of earthquake imaging flights over central California the week of Nov. 26.
A NASA C-20A, a modified Gulfstream III based at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., is carrying the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) while flying a precision path over California's central San Andreas Fault. The UAVSAR images the fault line to document any subtle deformation in the Earth's surface. This activity is a repeat of previous data collection and may be used to determine if there have been any changes in the activity of the San Andreas fault in that area.
Carried under the C-20A's belly, the UAVSAR is capable of spotting minute changes in the Earth's surface during precise repeat passes over targeted areas. An advanced research autopilot developed by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center enables the aircraft to fly its repeat passes within less than 10 meters deviation from a previous track, despite its flight altitude of 41,000 feet and regardless of weather conditions aloft.