Mars is attracting interest from other nations as well. India’s government announced in August 2012 that it approved plans for their country’s first mission beyond the Moon. The Mars Orbiter Mission, slated to launch in late 2013, will make India the ## to launch a mission to the Red Planet, after the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and China.
In August 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, carrying the Curiosity rover, landed on the surface of Mars. Curiosity carries ## science instruments with a total mass almost five times greater than the mass of either Spirit or Opportunity, NASA’s previous Mars rovers.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared space telescope. Its main mission is to observe some of the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang theory to the development of our own Milky Way Galaxy. In September, Ball Aerospace delivered the first two of JWST’s 18 primary mirror segments to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), where NASA is assembling the telescope.
The ability to minimize false detections of missile launches is a feature of Canada’s Sapphire spacecraft, launched in February 2013. The C$## million (US$## million) spacecraft, which features a unique orbit that positions it to track light reflected off of objects in space, offers space surveillance data to both Canada and the United States.
Some satellites are optimized to serve unique military functions. Missile launch detection satellites, such as the USAF Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High program, are designed to monitor and give maximum warning of ballistic missile launches originating anywhere on the planet. As of October 2012, there were two SBIRS-High payloads hosted on spacecraft in highly elliptical orbits. A third payload is planned for delivery to the USAF in 2013.
Many remote sensing satellites have dual military and civil or commercial purposes. India launched its indigenously developed radar imaging satellite, RISAT-1, in April 2012. The satellite will join RISAT-2 and will provide India with the ability to image features on the ground even if covered by clouds or foliage due to its use of a C-band microwave synthetic aperture radar. RISAT-2, a radar-based reconnaissance satellite, was purchased from Israel and deployed before RISAT-1 to help track and prevent terrorist activity, such as the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Weather satellites form another major segment of remote sensing satellites, typically operating in GEO or polar LEO orbits. These systems are primarily operated by national governments for forecasting near-term weather patterns. Delays and funding issues could endanger the robustness of some weather satellites programs, as several existing polar satellites are operating near or beyond their design life and are in need of replacement. One program in particular, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), is set to replace the aging Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) fleet.
Land imaging satellite performance is described using a variety of characteristics, including differences in spatial resolution (as measured by how many pixels compose an object), positional accuracies (as measured by the extent to which objects are represented accurately), and spectral capabilities (as measured by wavelengths of light captured, including visible and beyond-visible spectra). High-resolution land imaging satellites have resolutions below 1 meter (3 feet) per pixel, allowing users to distinguish cars from trucks, for example.
Satellites can also carry advanced payloads that can observe, measure, and produce valuable scientific data regarding land, sea, and air. Such satellites can provide detailed images of the Earth and collect a wide variety of measurements from space, such as ocean temperature, vegetation coverage, or pollution levels. These remote sensing satellites have civil, scientific, and military applications, such as providing aerial views on Google Earth, forecasting potential hurricane paths, or tracking enemy movements on a battlefield.
Europe is investing in a pan-European SSA capability through an ESA program that was initiated in 2009. Investment of €## million (US$## million) was initially requested for full-scale development, but ESA governments decided to spend only €## million (US$## million) over three years. So far, ESA has spent €## million (US$## million) on development. Some of that funding supported construction of ## prototype space surveillance radars. The first radar, located in Spain and built by Germany, was completed in October 2012 with validation and testing beginning in November.