Surface Deformation and Change (SDC)

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Deformation measurements, such as Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR), are an important tool for understanding the dynamics of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, glaciers, groundwater and the deep interior; for quantifying the rates and driving processes of sea-level change and landscape change; and for supporting hazard forecasts and disaster impact assessments.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) 2017 Decadal Survey, “Thriving on Our Changing Planet: A Decadal Strategy for Earth Observations from Space,” recommended a new NASA “Designated” program element to address a set of five high-value Targeted or Designated Observables during the next decadal period. In response to that recommendation, and based on guidance from NASA’s Earth Science Division, a multi-center study team was assembled to perform studies associated with the cost-capped Surface Deformation and Change (SDC) Targeted Observable. The SDC Study has three main objectives: 

  1. Identify and characterize a diverse set of observing architectures, including innovative observing systems that have the potential for disrupting the norm for SDC observations.
  2. Assess the ability of each of the architectures to meet SDC objectives, including cost effectiveness.
  3. Perform sufficient in-depth design study of one selected architecture to enable rapid initiation of a Phase A concept study.

To accomplish these objectives, the study team will harness national expertise in Earth science research, applications, technology, mission formulation and implementation. The team comprises all NASA centers with relevant expertise and engages major stakeholder organizations in government, academia and industry. The SDC study started in October 2018 and will end in September 2023. At the end of this study, it is anticipated that documents to hold a Mission Concept Review will be generated for one selected architecture. NASA Headquarters will use the capabilities assessed through this study to prepare the announcement of opportunity and requirements for a future mission. 


Workshop Reports, Presentations and Other Documents


Current Science and Applications Traceability Matrix (SATM)

Coming soon.


Related events

July 30, 2019: IGARSS Workshop
Location: Yokohama, Japan
“NASA’s Next Generation Surface Deformation and Change Observing System Architecture,” presented by Dr. Paul Rosen, Study Coordinator, NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar mission, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Fall 2019: Research and Application Workshop-2
By invitation only

May 27-29, 2020: European Space Research Institute (ESRIN)
Ad hoc meeting of 2018 SAR Workshop participants to follow up on communications over the past year.


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Schedule for studies underway



Paul A. Rosen

Batu Osmanoglu