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Satellite Missions Catalogue

ALOS-4 (Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4 )

Dec 6, 2022

JAXA

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Albedo and reflectance

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Atmospheric Winds

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Gravity, Magnetic and Geodynamic measurements

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The Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4 (ALOS-4) is a Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission aimed at observing and monitoring disaster-hit areas, forests, sea-ice, and monitoring infrastructure displacement. Planned for launch by March 2023, ALOS-4 will replace the current ALOS-2 mission and will have an improved sensor.

Quick facts

Overview

Mission typeEO
AgencyJAXA
Mission statusApproved
Launch dateMarch 2023
Measurement domainAtmosphere, Gravity and Magnetic Fields, Land, Ocean, Snow & Ice
Measurement categoryAlbedo and reflectance, Atmospheric Winds, Gravity, Magnetic and Geodynamic measurements, Ice sheet topography, Landscape topography, Multi-purpose imagery (land), Multi-purpose imagery (ocean), Ocean surface winds, Sea ice cover, edge and thickness, Snow cover, edge and depth, Soil moisture, Vegetation
InstrumentsPALSAR-3
Instrument typeImaging microwave radars
CEOS EO HandbookSee ALOS-4 (Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4 ) summary

ALOS-4 (Image credit: JAXA)

Summary

Mission Capabilities

ALOS-4 will carry the Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar-3 (PALSAR-3), an L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which will provide continuity with greater resolution in comparison to ALOS-2 for monitoring infrastructure development, forest management and land deformation and subsistence. ALOS-4 will also carry  the SPace based AIS Experiment (SPAISE3), a high performance satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS), to monitor the oceans by receiving AIS signals from vessels. 

Performance Specifications

PALSAR-3 will make microwave measurements at a frequency of 1270 Mhz in the L-band. It will be able to observe in three modes: Stripmap mode, ScanSAR mode and Spotlight mode. Stripmap mode will have a spatial resolution ranging from 3-10m and a swath width between 100-200 km while ScanSAR mode will have a spatial resolution of 25 m and a swath width of 700 km. Spotlight mode will have the greatest spatial resolution of 3m x 1m at a Swath width of 35 km.

ALOS-4 will fly in a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 628 km. It will have an orbital inclination of 97.9°, an orbital period of 97 minutes and a repeat cycle of 14 days. 

Space and Hardware Components

ALOS-4 will have a mass of approximately 2990 kg and dimensions of 10 m x 20 m x 6.4 m. The prime contractor for the construction of ALOS-4 is the Mitsubishi Electric corporation. ALOS-4 will downlink data in the ka-band at a rate of 1.8 or 3.6 Gbps.
 

Overview

The Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4 (ALOS-4) is a Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission aimed at observing and monitoring disaster-hit areas, forests, sea-ice, and monitoring infrastructure displacement. The mission will also be able to monitor vessels in the oceans and heavy marine traffic areas. Planned for launch by March 2023, ALOS–4  will replaced the current ALOS-2 mission and will have an improved sensor, the Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar-3 (PALSAR-3), which, when compared to its predecessor PALSAR-2 onboard ALOS-2, will achieve both  higher resolution and a broader observation swath. The ALOS-4 will also be equipped with the SPace based AIS Experiment (SPAISE3), a high performance satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS) to detect signals from ocean vessels.

ALOS-4 (Image credit: JAXA)

Monitoring Land Deformation and Subsidence

Radar satellites can measure diastrophism or ground transformation caused by volcanic activity of an earthquake up to a few centimetres by comparing acquired data in the same area at different times. The location of a magma reservoir and its movement from surface displacement can be estimated by continuously monitoring volcanoes, and such an estimation can contribute to understanding volcanic activities which is vital in Japan with high volcanic activity. ALOS-4 will increase the observation frequency to once every two weeks, when compared to ALOS-2 which flies in the same orbit and can observe one volcano just four times a year, so that disaster prevention agencies can find abnormal changes such as volcanic activity, land subsidence, or landslides, and provide  early warning for the public. In addition, the swath width will be drastically increased from 50 km to 200 km while keeping a high resolution, enabling observation of a broader area at the same time when a large-scale disaster that damages wide areas occurs.

A comparison between ALOS-2 and ALOS-4 swath width with active volcanoes marked (Image credit: JAXA)

Forest Management

Forest covers 30% of all land area in the world, and deforestation is responsible for significant  greenhouse gases net emissions. Therefore, forest conservation and assessment are important. JAXA and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are cooperatively developing the JICA-JAXA Forest Early Warning System in the Tropics (JJ-FAST). Using observation data from ALOS-2, the JJ-FAST can detect areas of deforestation in the order of a few hectares, and is currently operational in 77 countries. However, there are many smaller deforestation areas, and ALOS-4 will conduct observations more frequently with five times more precision to detect smaller deforestation areas that cannot be monitored by ALOS-2.

A comparison between ALOS-2 and ALOS-4  resolution for monitoring deforestation (Image credit: JAXA)

Monitoring Infrastructure Development

JAXA carries out research to detect the annual displacement of structure due to the deterioration of dams, levees, port facilities and infrastructure by analysing time series of ALOS-2’s data. ALOS-4 will acquire data with more frequency, enabling the detection of annual displacement that grows slowly and gradually, such as structural distortion and subsidence, with precision of a few millimetres. Through such detailed observations, the satellite data is expected to be utilised for more efficient infrastructure maintenance.

 

Spacecraft

ALOS-4 will have a mass of approximately 2990 kg and dimensions of 10 m x 20 m x 6.4 m. It will be in a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 628 km, an orbital inclination of 97.9 deg and have a 14 day revisit time. The prime contractor for the construction of ALOS-4 is the Mitsubishi Electric corporation. ALOS-4 will downlink data in the ka-band at a rate of 1.8 or 3.6 Gbps.

Launch

ALOS-4 is on track to be launched by March 2023 on a JAXA H3 rocket from Tanegashima Space Centre. The H3 rocket, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is an expendable launch system that is in development in Japan.

Sensor Complement

PALSAR-3

The Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar-3 (PALSAR-3) is a L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The L-band, which represents microwave measurements in the range 1-2 GHz, has continuously been developed in Japan. The instrument will measure at a frequency of 1270 MHz in the L-band. With the utilisation of digital beamforming techniques, the swath width of PALSAR-3 will improve while maintaining the ground resolution.

The three imaging mode of PALSAR-3 (Image credit: JAXA)

PALSAR-3 observes in three modes: Stripmap mode, ScanSAR mode and Spotlight mode. Regular stripmap mode observation is right-side, incidence angle of 30-44°. The other beams and left-side observation are used for quick disaster monitoring. The performance characteristics of the PALSAR instrument are presented in Table 1.

Diagram of the incidence angles of PALSAR-3 (Image credit: JAXA)
Table 1: Performance Characteristics of the PALSAR instrument’s modes.

SAR mode

Spotlight

Stripmap

ScanSar

Centre Frequency (MHz)

1257.5

1257.5

1236.5 or 1257.5 or 1278.5

Bandwidth (MHz)

84

84

42

28

28

Resolution (m)

3x1

3

6

10

25(1look)

Swath Width (Km)

35

200

100

200

100

200

100

700(4scans)

Available Incidence angle range (°)

8-70

30-56

8-70

30-56

8-70

29-56

8-70

8-70

 

The images below show a comparison of the coverage of 1 repeat cycle (14 days) between PALSAR-3 and PALSAR-2.

ALOS-4 PALSAR-3 (Image credit: JAXA)                                        ALOS-2 PALSAR-2 (Image credit: JAXA)

SPAISE3

The SPace based AIS Experiment (SPAISE3) enables ALOS-4 to monitor the oceans by receiving AIS signals from vessels as well as by acquiring the PALSAR-3 images. SPAISE3 has eight antennas and adopts ground-based digital beam-forming (DBF) method as one of effective countermeasures against radio wave interference regions. Using this technology the detection success rate of ships in heavy marine traffic areas will be improved compared to SPAISE2. SPAISE3 development is JAXA’s ongoing project in cooperation with the Nippon Electric Corporation (NEC).

References 

1) “JAXA | Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4 (ALOS-4).” Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, https://global.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/alos4/.

2) “ALOS-4|ALOS@EORC.” ALOS-4|ALOS@EORC, https://www.eorc.jaxa.jp/ALOS/en/alos-4/a4_about_e.htm.

3) “ALOS-4|ALOS@EORC.” ALOS-4|ALOS@EORC, https://www.eorc.jaxa.jp/ALOS/en/alos-4/a4_sensor_e.htm.

4) “ALOS 4 - Gunter's Space Page.” Gunter's Space Page, 1 December 2021, https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/alos-4.htm.

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (eoportal@symbios.space).

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