15 years of satellite data

Release Date: 
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

For Immediate Release 

In celebration of the 15th anniversary of its first synthetic aperture radar data downlink, the Alaska Satellite Facility will host an open house. The open house will be held at the Elvey Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus on Saturday, August 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The community is invited to come out and learn more about this facility that provides services worldwide. 

As pounding surf and ferocious winds tore apart the Selendang Ayu, an oil tanker that wrecked near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in December 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard turned to the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) for help. ASF immediately utilized satellite data to help the rescue effort and continued monitoring the region to help with the lengthy oil cleanup afterwards. 

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is the tool that enables ASF to provide information in such emergencies. SAR is a valuable resource since it sees through darkness, clouds and smoke. As in the case of the Selendang Ayu, emergencies requiring SAR data often occur in dark and stormy conditions. 

The Alaska Satellite Facility is situated at a high latitude, nearly 65 degrees, and is at an ideal location to receive SAR data from polar-orbiting satellites. ASF receives data from each of these satellites up to 20 times per day.

Due to recent technological developments, ASF will improve the lives of people in Interior Alaska too. Developments in forest fire monitoring, such as improved mapping of fire scars, soil moisture mapping and calculation of fuel quantities in unburned forests, will greatly help control big summer blazes in Alaska. SAR is useful in such applications because it can see through smoke.


Rebecca Sanches, Alaska Satellite Facility: 474-6166
Amy Hartley, Geophysical Institute Information Officer: 474-5823