Innovative NASA-JAXA Partnership Benefits Global Earth Science

WASHINGTON -- In a unique collaboration between national space
agencies, the United States and Japan began combining elements of
their satellite resources on Monday to increase a critical type of
Earth observation data. The partnership will more than double the
quantity of this data that is used to explore earthquake hazards,
forest declines, and changing water resources in the Americas.

This new partnership between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration
Agency, known as JAXA, uses NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
System to download observations over North and South America taken by
instruments on JAXA's Advanced Land Observing Satellite, or ALOS. By
combining NASA and JAXA data-relay satellite resources, coverage of
North and South America nearly doubles. Observations will be made
about twice as often.

"This is a great example of the value to be gained through
international collaboration between the world's Earth-observing
nations," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science
Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. "By working together and sharing satellite resources like
this, we can produce more data more rapidly and cost-effectively than
if each of us went it alone."

The Phased Array type L-band synthetic aperture radar, known as
PALSAR, is one of the instruments aboard ALOS. It precisely measures
the distance to Earth's surface under all weather conditions during
day and night. Measurements from this instrument are used for
detecting changes in the ground surface associated with earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions, and landslides; mapping forest cover and flooding
in the tropics that affect the carbon balance in land-based
ecosystems; and determining the speed at which ice sheets and
glaciers move, which contributes to sea-level rise.

NASA does not currently have this type of instrument in orbit, but a
NASA synthetic aperture radar mission is planned to launch later this
decade. NASA has been obtaining these data from JAXA and other
international space agencies for use by U.S. scientists.

Under the new agreement with JAXA, NASA will have access to all the
ALOS data acquired over the Americas and can make it available to
scientists affiliated with U.S. government agencies for peaceful
scientific purposes. The Alaska Satellite Facility, a NASA data
center located at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will process
and distribute the PALSAR data.

"The expanded ALOS data flow will significantly improve our
scientists' ability to monitor regions at risk to earthquake hazards,
such as Haiti and Chile," said Craig Dobson, natural hazards program
manager in the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters. "Now we
will be able to see very small changes in surface elevation
associated with the build-up and release of strain in seismic zones
over virtually the entire area of the Americas, with measurements
made as often as every 46 days. Scientists also will be able to
monitor seasonal changes in groundwater resources."

NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System consists of eight
communication satellites stationed in geosynchronous orbits. With
ground stations at the White Sands Complex near Las Cruces, N.M., and
at Guam, the system can provide complete coverage of user spacecraft.
The system supports communications with the International Space
Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and many other NASA missions.

ALOS data began to be distributed to users by the Alaska Satellite
Facility today under the new agreement. The partnership is the result
of development and testing work accomplished by a joint NASA-JAXA
team that was started three years ago.

This new NASA-JAXA agreement continues a long and productive
partnership between the nations in satellite observation of Earth.
Japanese instruments are flying on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites,
and NASA sensors have flown on previous Japanese Earth-observation
missions. The NASA-JAXA Global Precipitation Mission, to be launched
in 2013, will include both NASA- and JAXA-supplied sensors on a NASA
satellite launched on a JAXA rocket. The mission will provide the
first frequent, accurate measurements of rainfall over the entire
globe for use by scientists and weather forecasters.

For more information about NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
System, visit:


For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


Source: NASA

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