Surface Deformation and Change (SDC)


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.


AGU 2022 Fall Meeting

Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022

SDC Focus Groups

As part of the Study, four focus groups are currently refining the SDC-related science and applications goals in their respective disciplines. The groups are listed below with the names of their moderators. If you are interested, have any questions on the work of the focus groups please contact the moderators.

Reference Materials and Documents

Candidate SDC Architectures

‘In this reference document, you will see a description of the SDC candidate mission architectures that resulted from a down-selection performed by the Architectures, the Value Framework, and the Research and Applications SDC teams, based on the value framework used to assess them. In addition to a description, a user guide, and requested Future Community Contribution for each candidate architecture are also included.’

To provide feedback on the Candidate SDC architectures to the SDC team, email: ’’, and include “Candidate SDC Architectures feedback” in the subject line.

SDC 2021 Update

In this narrated presentation, you can listen to the team members describing the current status of the SDC mission study. You will find out about SDCs place in Earth System Observatory, the value framework used to assess the architectures, and the way SDC reaches out to the community.

Report of the SDC First Research and Applications Workshop

(April 29 and May 1, 2019 at Caltech in Pasadena, CA, USA)

Workshop goals were to review the Decadal Survey science and application objectives for clarity and completeness, to prioritize SDC measurements needed to advance those science and application objectives, and to refine their measurement parameters.

Phase II Science and Applications Traceability Matrix (SATM)

Phase I Science and Applications Traceability Matrix (SATM)

The SDC Phase 1 SATM reflects and distills the community’s input received through in-person and virtual workshops, surveys and polls, and the work of SDC’s discipline-themed focus groups. The focus groups are as follows: Hydrology, Cryosphere, Ecosystems, Solid Earth, and Geohazards. SDC’s Phase 1 SATM is an augmented and deepened version of the 2017 Decadal Survey’s (DS) SATM. Starting from the DS’s Science and Application Objectives, the Geophysical Observables provided were expanded (mostly to include amplitude-based measurements, as directed by NASA) and then nuanced, and the corresponding measurement parameters refined.

The DS considered 5 top-level, interdisciplinary science and application topics in the process of developing priorities. The letters denoting the topics in the following list are used as reference throughout the SATM:

Global Hydrological Cycles and Water Resources (H): The movement, distribution, and availability of water and how these are changing over time.

Weather and Air Quality—Minutes to Subseasonal (W): Atmospheric Dynamics, Thermodynamics, Chemistry, and their interactions at land and ocean interfaces.

Marine and Terrestrial Ecosystems and Natural Resource Management (E): Biogeochemical Cycles, Ecosystem Functioning, Biodiversity, and factors that influence health and ecosystem services.

Climate Variability and Change: Seasonal to Centennial (C): Forcings and Feedbacks of the Ocean, Atmosphere, Land, and Cryosphere within the Coupled Climate System.

Earth Surface and Interior: Dynamics and Hazards (S): Core, mantle, lithosphere, and surface processes, system interactions, and the hazards they generate.

Within each topic, the DS identified a set of major Societal or Science Question/Goals (listed as questions in the first column of the individual SATM tables). Each one of these major goals was in turn expressed in greater detail as a number of Science and Applications Objectives (listed in the second column of the individual SATM tables) that are needed to address the related goal. Those objectives were prioritized by the DS as Most Important, Very Important, or Important. The Geophysical Observables are the parameters to be observed to pursue the related objective, and their specifications are listed as the Measurement Parameters.

To provide feedback to the SDC study team on the Phase 1 SATM, please submit the following feedback form: Thank you!

Nontraditional User Needs for Surface Deformation and Change (SDC)

This study report captures the needs and priorities of non-research Earth observation users of SDC data. Focusing on the private sector users, it provides insights to the SDC team on mission design, broadens the team's understanding of applications user communities, and identifies ways in which NASA can engage with these communities.

2020 IEEE Aerospace Conference (March 7-14, 2020)

Past Events

SDC Virtual Community Town Hall

May 13, 2022
View recording (YouTube)

SDC Public-Private Partnership Q&A Session

December 10, 2021 @ 9 AM PT

AGU 2021 Fall Meeting

SDC Mission Study Town Hall
Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021

SNWG Radar Workshop (March 17 & July 7-8, 2020)

NASA/USGS-sponsored program workshop, held on behalf of the U.S. Group on Earth Observations, Satellite Needs Working Group (SNWG).

SATM WebEx (June 26, 2020)

A community telecon to acquire user feedback on the Solid Earth & Geohazards Science and Applications Traceability Matrix (SATM) for NASA’s Surface Deformation and Change Designated Observable study was held June 26, 2020, via WebEx.

European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) (October 20-22, 2021)

Ad hoc meeting of 2018 SAR Workshop participants to follow up on communications over the past year.
Workshop website

NASA Surface Deformation and Change (SDC) Research & Applications Virtual Workshop / 2020 NextGen Airborne SAR Workshop (May 19-21, 2020) - Virtual WebEx Workshop

NASA SDC Research & Applications (May 19, 2020)
2020 NextGen Airborne SAR Workshop (May 20-21, 2020)

IGARSS Workshop (July 30, 2019)

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.

SDC Technology Workshop (May 20-22, 2019)

Location: Pasadena, CA

"A technology dialog co-located with the Space Tech Expo that enabled SDC leadership and technologists to interact with a broad range of experts across mission systems areas to discuss the intersection of SDC needs and current/future capabilities."

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Schedule for studies underway

  • Q1 FY23: Selection of SDC architecture finalists
  • October 23-28, 2022: Pecora Conference Presentation
  • December 12-16, 2022: AGU Fall Meeting Townhall
  • Q4 FY23: SDC architecture recommendation