SORA (Sounding Radar)
The objective and mission responsibility stands for ASI in the domain of Line Topics Development and Test of radar sounding. The date scheduled for launch was in June 2009, but it was launched 1 July. The mission was ended in 2009.
The experiment SoRa (Sounding Radar) is part of a wider program of testing of payloads for exploration and consists of a stratospheric balloon flight of ground penetrating radar with performance similar to those already provided by ASI to Mars exploration missions: Mars Express MARSIS for SHARAD and especially for MRO NASA. The mission already programmed lasted about a week, at an altitude of 35 km above sea level and latitude of about 80 ° north, then with a circumpolar overflight of a vast area of Greenland and the Canadian archipelago, which took place on recovery of the payload released from the ball.
To this end has been designed and realized a gondola of almost 1.5 cubic meters of edge-impact resistant and capable of ensuring the buoyancy, which houses all the systems for the supply, management software, in addition to the main payload consists of the synthetic aperture radar with a center frequency of 163 MHz and pulse duration of 3 s; outside is instead fixed the antenna emitting type Yagi with gain of about 13 dB. The management of the equipment flight, the balloon and its gas, of parachute systems and preparatory activities on the fly sees the full involvement of the staff and infrastructure of the base ASI Trapani.
The main goal of the experiment is the instrument calibration hardware and software, the validation of inversion algorithms adopted in penetrating radar for planetary exploration; data acquired during the overflight of glacial surfaces in known structure will be a reference to a process of development and further development of radar, in conditions very close to those operations. At the same time you can get to know, from the geomorphological point of view, of the polar areas covered by ice, permafrost, the sedimentary and plutonic rocks in the subsurface up to several kilometers deep and with resolution up to 15 meters.
The wide range of investigations permitted by inspection technology of the subsurface using radar opens the way to many more applications on flights with stratospheric balloons, like those in the study phase of desert areas in equatorial areas or in the Antarctic.
The experiment is funded entirely by ASI and exclusively involves Italian research institutions and companies: the CORISTA TAS-I of Naples and Rome for the development of radar, CISAS of Padua for the gondola and auxiliary systems, the INFOCOM department of “La Sapienza” of Rome and Pescara IRSPS for the definition of the scientific aspects and the subsequent data analysis.
“SoRa principal payload is a very faithful reproduction of SHARAD radar, which, at the moment, is onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter” has explained Enrico Flamini, responsible for ASI Universe Observation Unit. “It is a ground penetrating radar able to fathom the subsoil. Thanks to SoRa mission, it will be possible to acquire some reference data in order to compare them with those obtained by exploring the Red Planet”.
“SoRa will perform Earth hydro geological measurements and, therefore, it will allow us to improve our data interpretation capabilities. We will be able to experiment new and more accurate algorithms at the base of the so-called data complete inversion, the process that allows to go back from the radar signal reflex to the nature of what has been detected, especially useful during planetary missions”, has continued Enrico Flamini.
The mission has also another aim, which deals more closely with Earth observation. In fact “Coming over the Greenland, SoRa will measure the ice thickness and will analyze the Artic pack, providing useful elements on climate change effects”, has added Enrico Flamini.