Dawn of a New Era

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


You're looking at the Japanese H-IIA Launch Vehicle pushing the ALOS (Advanced Land Observing Satellite) satellite into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center early this morning. It contains several sensors, but especially noteworthy is the PALSAR (Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument. This is the first commercial fully-polarimetric spaceborne SAR ever to be seen. It can see through clouds during both night and day operations. It operates in L-band, which means it can see through trees.

What does this mean to me, you ask. It means that we now have a cost-effective means for monitoring terrorists and enemies operating under the trees or at night for the first time. If the Japanese are kind enough to allow us the use of their shiny new toy.


Originally designed to be launched in 2002, more can be found here, in Japanese here, and in Eurospeak here.

Note on politics. You'll notice that there's a paucity of information on this in the American press, and no news about it coming out of NASA. That's because the Japanese have taken the lead while the Americans are sitting on their duffs. But don't worry. We'll build better cars instead. Not. So we'll build bullet trains. Er, that would be the Europeans and Chinese.

The Germans are scheduled to launch a similar satellite this year, followed by the Canadians. Yes, even the Canadians are putting us to technological shame these days. No similar American satellite is even contemplated at this point. We'll be relying completely on these three allies for our monitoring needs. I guess we'll want to maintain good relations. So sit back, open a beer, and enjoy a toast to Yankee Japanese ingenuity.

29 comments:

Eric Blair said...

Well, the Japanese are our allies at this point. And I suspect that the telemetry from these satellites can be captured other than just getting a feed from whoever put it up there.

Further, I think you make too facile a case for actually identifying stuff on the ground.

chuck said...

I've been wondering if orbital SAR could help locate weapons caches. ISTR that some of the SAR images obtained by the shuttle missions showed the rock underlying desert sands in such places as Egypt and Yemen. So is seems that SAR should be able to penetrate the ground sufficiently to turn up metal objects such a shells and morter rounds.

Getting the needed downlink bandwidth to transfer all that information to the ground could be interesting. I wonder how much data the Japanese SAR is collecting?

Seneca the Younger said...

Is the resolution really that high?

Specter said...

Ain't technology incredible? Maybe we can buy some time to look for the brains of the democratic party?

THe rocket looks like a Titan-Centaur.

chuck said...

Is the resolution really that high?

Here is a link to the NASA SIR-C/X-SAR instrument flown in 1994. The wavelengths are:

L- band = 23.5 cm
C- band = 5.8 cm
X- band = 3.1 cm

So the limitations are likely to be the timing accuracy, the pulse shaping, bandwidth, and s/n -- radar returns fall off as 1/r**4 and so antenna gain is likely to be a limiting factor. There have been big advances in synthetic pulse generation and phased arrays. My dad, happily working at the cutting edge at age 86, has done a lot of the pulse synthesis work at Lincoln Labs.

I have always assumed that we have classified SAR radar in orbit. I sure hope that is the case. Also note the involvement of Ball Aerospace in the NASA instrument %^)

Knucklehead said...

This is the first commercial fully-polarimetric spaceborne SAR ever to be seen.

Yeah, but how many haven't we seen? Who's to say that fully-polarimetric spaceborne SARs, commercial or otherwise, haven't been zapping us with PALSAR for decades or even centuries.


It can see through trees!?!?! uh-oh. I'll be right back, I gotta go move some stuff.

Knucklehead said...

We'll be relying completely on these three allies for our monitoring needs.

Yeah, right. Like McChimpy Bu$hitler won't be running unwarranted grabs on their telemetry.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Eric, I could make a better case, probably much better than you can imagine, trust me on this, but I feel that a public web site is not the place, if you know what I mean.

Seneca, The German and Canadian satellites will have 1m resolution. We'll be able to get plenty from ALOS in the meantime. The key phrase here is "fully-polarimetric".

Chuck, Yes, I think you're right. But for ground penetration we need the long wavelengths. As for classified SAR, well, I've heard rumors but I wouldn't know anything about that. Lest we become too complacent, though, the important phrase here is "cost-effective". Trust me, large swaths of the US government will be relying on ALOS and the other satellites when they are launched.

Morgan said...

They can see your toes
Through your socks and socks and shoes
The Japanese can

RogerA said...

Morgan: Haiku wars!!!!

What they failed to do
In greater east As-i-a
They now do in space

Morgan said...

They can see me now
Through the roof of my homestead
But why would they want?

RogerA said...

nothing to be seen
in the household of Morgan
but much in the East

Morgan said...

Building nukes indoors
PALSAR casts its sickly light
Can't they see I'm Il?

RogerA said...

One of these days I have to find a paying job! Here I am doing haikus on a blog for heaven's sake--thank God my wife doesnt know about this.

MHA: thanks for a really good post on developments that most of us would be unaware. and, ahem, recall that I CORRECTLY called the outcome of the championship games--I predicted the steelers in the superbowl--now I will predict the steelers 17, the seahawks 10

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Roger, Roger,

Calling the outcome of a game--that's one thing. But putting your good name on the line for an exact point spread? I dunno....

Knucklehead said...

In winter a launch
Flames break bonds and render flight
To see through bare trees

Upward climbs a rocket
Another eye seeks to see
Deep into China.

Can't we do limmericks instead?

RogerA said...

hmmm--OK
seeing nukes indoors
much more fun to see perhaps
democrats new schemes

MHA: I know, Charlie--but its only good if you let it all hang out

Knucklehead said...

Seventeen to ten
A prediction much too low
And offense too high

RogerA said...

Knuck--since Charlie's best efforts to enlighten those technologically challenged members of Yargb have foundered on the rocks of haiku--you know propose Limericks--hmmm

a new rocket carried the goods
into space to see thru the woods
the Americans ignored
their ox being gored

And I can't think of a last line!!!!

Morgan said...

An eye in the sky came to life
Its gaze cut through clouds like a knife
So Jim shouted skyward
(That's more or less eye-ward)
"You'd better not look at my wife!"

It's all downhill from here.

Knucklehead said...

And Gore is still gulping 'ludes.

Best I could do and glad to help.

RogerA said...

OK Morgan: I surrender
but I did call the playoffs right--first time I have been right since 1957

Knucklehead said...

There once was a sat from Japan
That bothered Jim as it would any man
It could see right into his castle
Such potential for hastle!
Could expose even the best laid plan

RogerA said...

Let this be a lesson to you Charlie--never try to enlighten us--we will bury you in bad poetry forms.

RogerA said...

The Limerick form is complex
Its contents run chiefly to sex
It burgeons with virgins
and masculine urgins
and runs over with erotic effects


You have to love spondaic hexameter!

Morgan said...

All night Jim lay restless in bed
Afraid they could see in his head
"We can't let that happ'n!"
He threw off his cap 'n
Then covered his noggin in lead.

Knucklehead said...

Speaking of spondaic, or maybe 'ludes, and in keeping with space and Space Rangers theme, here's the looniest 'splanation of "Why we attacked Iraq" that I've ever run across, Anti-gravity and us. (ht: Tim Blair.)

Syl said...

I guess it can see through tinfoil then!

And the crazies thought 'illegal domestic wiretapping surveillance' was bad!

And those crazies can't even escape to Canada anymore!

Hey, we always aim for more transparency. Now we've got it, and the trees and rocks and houses too!

The only thing I fear is that the gubmint will now know what I had for dinner. Let the war on jelly donuts commence!

Morgan said...

Jellies in bellies
Churning for all to see them
Seven bucks a peep