On Jan. 25, NASA’s UAVSAR (Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar) left NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California aboard a modified NASA Gulfstream III aircraft to study earthquake fault in Haiti and Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic. It will continue its mapping mission into Central America to image the structure of tropical forests; monitor volcanic deformation and volcano processes and examine Mayan archeology sites.
UAVSAR’s ability to provide rapid access to regions of interest, short repeat flight intervals, high resolution and its variable viewing geometry make it a powerful tool for studying ongoing Earth processes. UAVSAR uses a technique called interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR, that sends pulses of microwave energy from the aircraft to the ground to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth’s surface, such as those caused by earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and glacier movements. Flying at a nominal altitude of 12,500 meters (41,000 feet), the radar, located in a pod under the aircraft’s belly, collects data over a selected region.
It then flies over the same region again, minutes to months later, using the aircraft’s advanced navigation system to precisely fly over the same path to an accuracy of within 5 meters (16.5 feet). By comparing these camera-like images (see image at the right), interferograms are formed that have baseline image of the surface deformation, from which scientists can measure the slow surface deformations involved with the buildup and release of strain along earthquake faults. Information and the data collected will be used by rescue and damage assessment officials to better estimate what areas might be most affected from a quake.
In the past the past three years UAVSAR has surveyed Iceland’s bedrock, Mt St. Helens, the Arctic ice and the length of California’s San Andreas fault system, this highly sophisticated radar system was many years in the making.
Thanks to everyone who helped,UAVSAR will become a vital part in our understanding of the earth and our response after a natural disaster.
Excerpts courtesy of http://www.spacemart.com/reports/NASA_Airborne_Radar
Excerpts courtesy of http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/01/nasa-radar-to-map-haiti-faults
Excerpts courtesy of http://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/mission_flights.html
Image courtesy of http://div33.jpl.nasa.gov/graphics/proj_photo/Proteus_UAVSAR_color_t.jpg
Image courtesy of http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/419456main_haiti20100126-full.jpg