NASA Launches New Satellite to Help Measure Soil Moisture

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SMAP Launch Vehicle lifts off from Vandenberg, California

On Saturday, January 20 NASA successfully launched its Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite. The SMAP mission will provide data that can help to improve weather forecasts, flood planning, and more.

Just in time to for the start of the International Year of Soils, the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite has been successfully sent into space. The launch was originally set for Thursday, Jan. 28, but adverse weather conditions prevented lift off until Jan. 30th. The satellite is now in orbit, where it will measure ground emissions of microwave radiation to calculate soil moisture to a 10 cm depth.

These measurements will provide high resolution global data with a variety of benefits. Soil moisture data can be used for improved weather and forecasting, flood prediction, agricultural management and more. The SMAP project has in the works since 2008 and is intended to have both research and social benefit applications.

More information about the SMAP mission and the launch can be found on the NASA website.

Those looking to learn more about the SMAP mission and further topics in soil research may be interested in the following Earthzine articles: