While limited exploration of Antarctica occurred sporadically during the first half of the twentieth century, dedicated scientific studies began with the 1957 International Geophysical Year.
ERS-1 and ERS-2 are now free and open by agreement between NASA and ESA.
The ERS-1 and -2 archive contains data collected primarily within the ASF and the McMurdo, Antarctica, station mask.
Recognition for ASF in its 25th anniversary year has come from all directions, from NASA’s Near Earth Network (NEN) to the Alaska state legislature. At an anniversary celebration held in June, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen, pictured at right, noted “the importance of the Alaska Satellite Facility not only to UAF and Alaska, but to the international research community, enhancing UAF’s strength as America’s Arctic research university.”
After many weeks of meticulous planning, local and visiting engineers and contractors first worked in subzero temperatures (down to minus 30°F) to dislodge the original, 40,000-pound, 10-meter system. As the first antenna for ASF’s Satellite Tracking Ground Station, the antenna had been in place for more than 25 years.
The celebration of ASF’s quarter-century milestone took place at an open house in early June 2016. The day featured an art show, scientific poster sessions, and activities for all ages linking varied Earth sciences to the data and services provided by ASF. Since 1991, ASF has provided synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data and imagery from …
10-meter antenna construction underway – Photographed by Jim Coccia Nettie La Belle-Hamer – Director, ASF What is now the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF), started out as a single-purpose imaging-radar receiving station conceived by a small working group formed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1982. The central idea started with the brief …
A site for the ASF had to be found and the obvious choice was to locate it in the Elvey Building, the home of the GI. Considerable modifications were needed for this. For a start, room had to be created for the location of the receiving and processing equipment and for the staff to operate this equipment. This was done by enclosing the patio that existed between the main tower of the Elvey Building and its annex. More importantly, where was the heavy 10-m diameter steerable receiving antenna to be located? After looking at various options it was decided that the roof of the seven-floor building would be ideal since it provided a good unobstructed horizon and station mask. Fortunately, the building was originally designed to have two more floors, which were deleted due to budget constraints, so the concrete core was strong enough to hold the antenna on top, after additional concrete was poured to provide a suitable platform. The construction work began in 1988 and was completed a year later. It was paid for completely by the University as agreed under the MOA.
In 1990, ASF was fully operational and awaited the launch of ERS-1. Due to limited data storage on the satellite, most of the data could only be received while the satellite was above the horizon as seen by a station. This was the reason to have several stations covering the polar region. Coverage of the region was a key objective of the ERS-1 program. ERS-1 was launched successfully in 1991 and the Japanese JERS-1 satellite in 1992. ASF began to receive and process massive amounts of data. One copy of the data was kept at ASF and another sent to either the European or Japanese satellite agencies.
ASF was also involved in the research made possible by the use of SAR data. Only approved researchers had access to the data and ASF submitted an omnibus proposal from University researchers called ALASKA (Arctic Lands and Shelves: Key Assessments) which was discussed and approved by ESA at several meetings in Frascati, Italy, and Noordwijk, Netherlands. The SAR data provided unique opportunities to examine sea ice and algorithms were developed with colleagues at JPL in Pasadena to track and quantify sea-ice movement. Geographical features, including volcanoes, glaciers, and other land forms were also studied.
Much has happened since the early days, but ASF has become an efficient and successful activity at the GI, and continues to provide excellent services to numerous researchers around the world.
The RADARSAT-1 Antarctic Mapping Project (RAMP) was conceived in the early 1980’s by Stan Wilson, Bob Thomas, and Bill Townsend. The idea developed as part of negotiations over participation by NASA in the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) RADARSAT-1 project. Both Ed Langham at CSA and Shelby Tilford at NASA reacted favorably to the exciting concept, and two complete mappings of the Antarctic were included in the Memorandum of Understanding.