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Alaska SAR Facility and NOAA Form Remote Sensing Alliance with Japanese Space Agency

Submitted by Carla Browning
Phone: (907) 474-7778


Some of the world's most comprehensive satellite information about the Americas will be downlinked, processed and distributed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute's Alaska Synthetic Aperture Radar Facility as part of an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to operate a facility for remote sensing products using data from Japan's Advanced Land Observing Satellite mission. Known as the ALOS Data Node, the center is one of four such enterprises worldwide established through the National Space Development Agency of Japan.

As the exclusive operating agent, ASF will serve the science community as well as non-research data users through the North, Central and South America. The advanced optical and radar equipment aboard the spacecraft will provide extremely detailed images and information.

"High resolution, three-dimensional images, from Barrow, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego will be available," said Larry Ledlow, project manager for the node at ASF.

The satellite will provide optical detail of ground features of an area as small as two and a half meters across and the radar is capable of penetrating clouds and darkness to detect crustal movements and glacier flow on the order of several centimeters.

The data have many uses for both research and non-research clients. For instance, NOAA will receive ALOS images of ice in shipping lanes and generate warnings, as well as monitor sea encroachment and coastal erosion, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency could use the data to monitor flood areas or forest fires. Other uses include precision mapping and monitoring critical global and regional changes like deforestation and polar ice sheet melting.

"Dozens of agencies are interested in this kind of information with potentially hundreds of applications from crop assessment to search and rescue," said Ledlow. "The agreement complements existing remote sensing research at UAF and has the potential to dramatically broaden the commercial opportunities of the Alaska SAR Facility because the data distribution in the past has been restricted by our partners."

The Alaska SAR Facility has been involved in receiving, processing and distributing data from remote sensing satellites since 1991. In the past decade, major support has been provided for Canadian, European, and Japanese satellite missions. In addition, another NASDA spacecraft, the ADEOS-II, will soon be serviced by ASF.

"The Japanese launch of the ALOS satellite in mid-2004 brings with it many new and exciting opportunities," said Nettie La Belle-Hamer, ASF Director. "The Alaska SAR Facility has a very high reputation for outstanding performance in satellite data acquisitions for international flight agencies. That reputation will go a long way in positioning ASF to meet potential commercial needs and further discussions related to innovations in technology or process and the development of related products."

Agencies on the web:
Alaska SAR Facility
ALOS Program
NOAA's National Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) www.nesdis.noaa.gov/

Contact: Larry Ledlow, project manager, Alaska SAR Facility at (907) 474-6973 or lledlow@asf.alaska.edu or Vicki Daniels, Geophysical Institute Public Information Office at (907) 474-5823 or vicki@gi.alaska.edu .