Inside the Astrotech payload processing facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, engineers and technicians place a protective cover over NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, satellite prior the spacecraft being transported to the launch pad.
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 also will be used to quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes and to develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capabilities. Launch is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2015. To learn more about SMAP, visit http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov Photo credit: Jeremy Moore, USAF Photo Squadron