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NASA Awards Alaska Satellite Facility Five-Year, $70M Contract

Jul 5, 2023 | News, Science

Side view of a NASA antenna, nicknamed AS-2, tracking a target. AS-2 stands atop the Elvey building at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

NASA/Goddard/Clare Skelly | Flickr

The Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) at UAF has a $70 million contract with NASA to continue to operate its Distributed Active Archive Center for synthetic aperture radar through 2028.

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The archive center is one of twelve in NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System. Each has a unique function; ASF specializes in synthetic aperture radar (SAR), where satellites produce image data from reflected radio energy.

“The collaboration between the Alaska Satellite Facility and NASA provides an uninterrupted opportunity to revolutionize NASA’s Earth observation capabilities with synthetic aperture radar data,” says ASF Director Wade Albright. “The contract represents a significant and ongoing step toward technology application and data management strategies, empowering scientists worldwide with comprehensive and accurate data.”

ASF employs nearly 100 people, nearly double the amount from five years ago thanks to additional contracts with NASA, other federal agencies, and commercial entities. SAR data use has grown dramatically since 2014, when the European Space Agency launched its Sentinel-1 satellite and made its SAR data freely available. ASF downlinks Sentinel-1 data under an agreement between the US State Department and the European Commission.

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The facility is preparing for a major increase in the amount of data it archives and distributes upon the launch of a SAR satellite by NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation. The satellite, named NISAR, will provide information about Earth’s changing ecosystems and surfaces, biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise, and groundwater.

The continuation contract allows ASF to enhance data collection, analysis, and distribution processes to advance the understanding of Earth’s systems and improve disaster response capabilities.

“The center will communicate regularly with Earth research science and instrument teams, as well as lead efforts in the SAR community on data formats, strategic data services, data interoperability, data usability, and data capabilities,” NASA stated in an announcement.

Last year, ASF received the NASA Group Achievement Award, given collectively to NASA’s twelve Distributed Active Archive Centers for “outstanding group accomplishment that has contributed substantially to NASA’s mission.”

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