Featured Image Source: CONAE
SpaceX is preparing to conduct a mission for the Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE - which translates to the National Space Activities Commission) of Argentina - it is the government's space agency in charge of space programs. The mission will consist of deploying SAOCOM 1B, an Earth imaging satellite into Polar Orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled to liftoff from Cape Canaveral's Air Force Station on March 30. CONAE officials shipped the SAOCOM 1B satellite on February 21st. to SpaceX facilities situated in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The President of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, was present at an Argentinian airport from where the satellite departed. He congratulated the scientists who were behind the development of SAOCOM 1B which will help the nation in many aspects. The satellite was transported to the United States aboard an Antonov AN124 aircraft, which took off from Argentina on Saturday, February 22. The SAOCOM 1B satellite arrived to SpaceX facilities where it will undergo final preparations. This week, CONAE engineers started to assemble the craft, integrate its solar panel, and turned it on to conduct several tests to make sure its signal works at optimal levels.
POSTALES #SAOCOM1B— CONAE (@CONAE_Oficial) February 28, 2020
El equipo de CONAE VENG e INVAP descargó el satélite y el equipamiento de soporte en la Estación de la Fuerza Aérea de Cabo Cañaveral, USA. #SAOCOM1B en la sala limpia de @SpaceX para ultimar preparativos para el lanzamiento#ArgentinaUnida #HaciaElFuturo pic.twitter.com/8RG5BFiXTG
The 3-ton satellite was manufactured entirely in Argentina, will serve to generate early warning systems for floods, crop loss risk, monitor their country's sea against illegal fishing, and also to support the management of environmental emergencies, such as detection of oil spills at sea and monitoring of water coverage during floods, among other applications. The country is very proud of their satellite development. Principal investigator of the SAOCOM mission, Laura Frulla, said in Spanish - ["El desarrollo de toda la misión fue un desafío muy importante para la Argentina, porque no teníamos conocimientos previos sobre la tecnología para la construcción y puesta a punto de satélites de este tipo. Dominar la tecnología de observación con radar es un gran avance que nos da independencia y soberanía tecnológica."] - In English it translates to:
'The development of the whole mission was a very important challenge for Argentina, because we had no previous knowledge about the technology for the construction and tuning of satellites of this type. Mastering radar observation technology is a great advance that gives us independence and technological sovereignty.'
The satellite is equipped with complex Earth observation technology featuring advanced optical sensors, known as Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR). SAR is a radar that creates 2D images or 3D visuals of landscapes on our planet. It will create 225 images per day of Argentina's surface.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the satellite into Polar Orbit, at an altitude of approximately 620 kilometers above Earth. Once SAOCOM 1B is operational, it will be capable of detecting any weather condition on our planet's surface, it will serve as a forecast system for flooding by detecting moisture levels within the soil. Detecting soil moisture will also help Argentinian producers know the best time for planting, also give them insight on fertilization and irrigation in crops such as sunflower, wheat, soybeans, and corn. Satellite will also provide support in relation to the use of chemicals for disease control in crops. The radar's microwaves will be able to "see" at anytime of the day, pass through the clouds both during the day and at night, even if it is cloudy. These characteristics make the SAOCOM 1B satellite especially useful for monitoring and mitigating natural or anthropic catastrophes.