NASA has received initial signals from its first soil moisture observation satellite, which is designed to aid in weather forecasting and global famine early-warning operations.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory-built Soil Moisture Active Passive observatory lifted off Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, NASA said Saturday.
A Delta II rocket built by United Launch Alliance — the Boeing–Lockheed Martin joint venture — carried the satellite from the launchpad.
Aerojet Rocketdyne developed the RS-27A booster engine and an AJ10-118K upper-stage engine used for the propulsion system.
“Scientists and policymakers will use SMAP data to track water movement around our planet and make more informed decisions in critical areas like agriculture and water resources,” said Charles Bolden, NASA administrator.
The satellite will orbit the Earth for three years to collect data about the planet’s system that connects the water, energy and carbon cycles.
NASA intends to produce soil moisture maps with 5.6-mile resolutions within nine months from the satellite.
The Delta II also rocket incorporated ATK’s graphite epoxy motors, which served as the composite fairing for the rocket and heat pipes for the satellite.