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NASA Launched its first earth satellite Soil Moisture Active Passive

Feb 4, 2015 10:50 IST

NASA on 31 January 2015 successfully launched its first Earth satellite Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP). The satellite is designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture.

The satellite was lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

The satellite is built to measure moisture in the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of soil from its spot in orbit about 426 miles (685 kilometers) above Earth's surface, completing an orbit once every 98.5 minutes.

The SMAP is equipped with a 20 feet (6 meters) mesh antenna which is the largest of its kind that NASA has ever flown in space. SMAP's antenna is designed to spin at about 14.6 revolutions per minute while mounted to the end of a long arm on the satellite's body.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California will manage SMAP for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, with instrument hardware and science contributions made by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Importance of SMAP

The satellite is designed to measure the moisture of Earth's dirt more accurately than ever before. The probe will make a global map of the planet's soil moisture levels every three days.

It can help scientists create more accurate weather models, learn more about drought conditions and even predict floods.

In addition, since plant growth depends on the amount of water in the soil, SMAP data will allow nations to better forecast crop yields and assist in global famine early-warning systems.

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