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Remote sensing of the Earth with spaceborne imaging radars

, : Remote sensing of the Earth with spaceborne imaging radars. Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics 97(Pages 639-683

Spaceborne imaging sensors in the visible, infrared and passive microwave have been used to observe and study the Earth's surface since the early stages of the space program. More recently, active microwave imaging sensors (radars) have been developed to extend our capability to study the Earth surface processes. Imaging radars, flown on Seasat (1978) and the Shuttle (1981, 1984), acquired synoptic images of a variety of geologic, biologic, and oceanographic features and provided new insight in some of the land and ocean processes. Subsurface synoptic imaging was achieved for the first time in some of the arid regions of the world. Soil moisture distribution after a rainstorm was clearly delineated, opening the possibility of its monitoring on a global basis. Polar ice distribution and dynamics over large areas in the Beaufort Sea were monitored over a three-month period, thus allowing the possibility of operational observation of ice dynamics in support of polar navigation. The successful development and flight of these spaceborne imaging radars was the result of major technological developments in the 1970s. They used some of the largest spaceborne lightweight planar array antennas (2X10 m) with printed radiating elements. The transmitters were fully solid state and generated a 1 kw peak power signal at L-band (1.2 Ghz). The processing of the received data to generate the high-resolution (25 to 40 m) imagery was done using both optical and digital processors. More advanced imaging radar systems are under development. Multispectral, multipolarization imaging radar systems are under development for flight in the late 1980s, thus extending our capability of detailed studies of the Earth surface processes and the nature of its cover. Extremely fast SAR digital processors are under development using the most advanced integrated circuits and allowing real-time processing of the data. This corresponds to a computational capability of 6X10 (super 9) operations/s. This chapter consists of a review of the recent scientific and technological developments in the field of Earth observation with spaceborne imaging radars and an overview of planned activities in the 1980s.

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