The NISAR Mission: Satellite Assembly and Space Diplomacy with Scott Nowak

The NISAR (NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) Mission is the first major collaboration between NASA and ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization. The satellite itself is a advanced Earth Observing Radar Mission to map Earth’s Solid Surface in three dimensional detail every 12 days. Additionally, the mission is a groundbreaking effort to bring together the space agencies of the worlds two largest democracies. Scott Nowak is a mechanical integration engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has spent the past four years in a cleanroom participating in the assembly, test, and delivery of the NISAR satellite. In March 2023 the Radar Payload of the NISAR mission was transported from JPL in Pasadena California to the UR Rao Space Center in Bengaluru, India.

Scott will talk about the challenges of building a one of a kind earth science satellite as well as the unique aspects of transporting that satellite halfway around the world to India. Learn what it takes to assemble a three ton satellite, what it is like establishing a foreign partnership, and what the NISAR mission will deliver in terms of science data once it launches in 2024. From technical challenges in the cleanroom to being one of the largest items ever transported in a C-17 to cutting swaths of trees to clear Indian roadways, NISAR has been a pathfinder every step of the way. Very few satellites travel this far on earth before being shot into space.

Scott Nowak is a mechanical integration engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. In his 15 year career, he has been involved in the build of NISAR, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Coring Drill, the INSIGHT Mars Lander, and three Orbiting Carbon Observatory missions. His expertise is in building complex spacecraft assemblies. When he is not in a cleanroom bunny suit, he enjoys travel, scuba diving, cooking food from around the world, and exploring the eccentric parts of Los Angeles.

This program was organized by Grant McComb #1231.