The launch of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has been delayed 24 hours. The satellite was supposed to launch this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but upper level winds were not cooperating.

The next launch attempt will be tomorrow (Friday) at 9:20 am EST. Weather is expected to be clear again tomorrow. Hopefully, the upper level shear affecting today’s attempted launch is gone tomorrow.

What is the SMAP Observatory

NASA’s newest Earth-observing satellite will take the most accurate measurements ever of the moisture in Earth’s dirt. The satellite will create a high-resolution global map of the planet’s soil moisture levels every three days.

NASA says this soil mapping will then be used to help create better weather models, predict floods and expand our knowledge about droughts.

“What the soil measurements will do is improve our weather forecasts, improve our assessments of water availability and also address some issues dealing with long-term climate variability and assessments of the impact of human intervention in the global environment,” Dara Entekhabi, SMAP science team leader, said during a recent news conference. “All of these come together and it’s the metabolism, how it responds, just like a human body.”

How does the SMAP work? It uses two instruments, a radar and a radiometer. The radar sends a signal to earth and measures the backscatter that bounces back to the satellite. The radiometer will record the natural microwave signal the Earth emits. The NASA image below visualizes this process.

how smap observatory works

Once the SMAP observatory reaches its orbit, it will fly 426 miles above the Earth.

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