NISAR is a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). NASA and ISRO are providing two radars that are optimized each in their own way to allow the mission to observe a wider range of changes than either one alone. NISAR will detect movements of the planet’s surface as small as 0.4 inches over areas about half the size of a tennis court.


About NISAR:

It’s an SUV-sized satellite that is being jointly developed by the space agencies of the US and India.

The partnership agreement was signed between NASA and ISRO in September 2014, according to which NASA will provide one of the radars for the satellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem.

ISRO, on the other hand, will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, into a near-polar orbit and will scan the globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets and sea ice to give an “unprecedented” view of the planet.

The goal of NISAR is to make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.

This mission concept and the resulting partnership are in response to the National Academy of Science’s 2007 survey of Earth observational priorities for the next decade, known as the decadal survey.

One of the top priorities identified in this survey was to gain data and insight in three Earth science domains: ecosystems, deformation of Earth’s crust and cryospheric sciences.


Applications of NISAR:

  • A dedicated U.S. and Indian InSAR mission, in partnership with ISRO, optimized for studying hazards and global environmental change.
  • Earth’s surface is constantly changing as a result of both natural and human processes, and humanity’s exposure to natural hazards is increasing. NISAR will measure these changes, from small movements of the crust up to volcanic eruptions.
  • The NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) Mission will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces, and ice masses providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise, and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications.
  • NISAR will observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces globally with 12-day regularity on ascending and descending passes, sampling Earth on average every 6 days for a baseline 3-year mission.
  • NISAR’s data can help people worldwide better manage natural resources and hazards, as well as providing information for scientists to better understand the effects and pace of climate change. It will also add to our understanding of our planet’s hard outer layer, called its crust.
  • NISAR’s global and rapid coverage will provide unprecedented opportunities for disaster response, providing data to assist in mitigating and assessing damage, with observations before and after disasters in short time frames.
  • NISAR maps will allow initial damage estimates to guide ground inspections for damage assessment.


Significance from the point of India-US relations:

Space cooperation has usually not featured prominently in discussions between the two sides.

The joint statement of the third India-U.S. 2+2 strategic dialogue (Oct 2020) noted the agreement among the four ministers to start cooperation on a specific agenda within the broad space domain – Space Situational Awareness (SSA).The importance of SSA cannot be overemphasized given its utility in ensuring safe, secure, and sustainable use of outer space.

There are good reasons for India and the United States to develop a collaborative mechanism to start sharing SSA data.

Both are major spacefaring nations with significant investment in space; their societies and militaries are dependent on space for a number of critical functions. Therefore, any disruptions of their space assets would result not only in social and economic disruption but interference in the effectiveness of their militaries as well.

Beyond space launches, India and the US have started cooperating in the area of Satellite Navigation (SatNav).

The “stellar” partnership between the two nations will be a very useful tool to address the matters pertaining to disaster preparedness while it will also cater to the need for management of natural resources across the world.

The U.S. and India also have a deep, cooperative relationship in weather systems and applications, which rely heavily on space technologies