A half section of the 10-foot-diameter fairing for NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, is attached to a crane during preparations to hoist it into the environmental enclosure at the top of the mobile service tower at Space Launch Complex 2 on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The fairing will protect the SMAP spacecraft from the heat and aerodynamic pressure generated during its ascent to orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. These measurements will be used to enhance understanding of processes that link the water, energy and carbon cycles, and to extend the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models. SMAP data will also be used to quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes and to develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capabilities. Launch is scheduled for no earlier than November 2014. To learn more about SMAP, visit http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin