The Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, targeted to launch in 2020, will make global measurements of the causes and consequences of a variety of land surface changes on Earth. NASA

Nasa and the Indian space agency Isro will work together on an earth observing satellite mission and also study possible joint missions to Mars.

In a meeting on Tuesday in Toronto where the 65th International Astronautical Congress kicked off, Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden and K Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), signed a charter that establishes a Nasa-Isro Mars Working Group to investigate enhanced cooperation between the two countries in Mars exploration.

They also signed an international agreement detailing the cooperation on the Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, targetted to be launched in 2020.

The joint NISAR Earth-observing mission will make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes to improve understanding of climate change impacts.

Potential areas of research include ecosystem disturbances, ice sheet collapse and natural hazards.
NISAR will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in our planet's surface less than a centimeter across, says a Nasa press release.

Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden (left) and Chairman K. Radhakrishnan of the Indian Space Research Organisation signing documents in Toronto on Sept. 30, 2014 to launch a joint Earth-observing satellite mission and establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars. NASA

This will allow the mission to observe a wide range of changes, from the flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets to the dynamics of earthquakes and volcanoes.

"The signing of these two documents reflects the strong commitment Nasa and Isro have to advancing science and improving life on Earth," said Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden.

"This partnership will yield tangible benefits to both our countries and the world," he added.

The joint Mars Working Group will meet once a year to plan cooperative activities, including coordinated observations and analysis between both the agencies' probes in orbit around Mars. Nasa's Maven and Isro's MOM will both be studying the Martian atmosphere.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Nasa will provide Nisar with the L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR), a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid state recorder, and a payload data subsystem.

Isro will provide the spacecraft bus, an S-band SAR, and the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

Nasa and Isro have been cooperating under the terms of a framework agreement signed in 2008.
This cooperation includes a variety of activities in space sciences such as two Nasa payloads -- the Mini-Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper -- on Isro's Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon in 2008.

During the operational phase of this mission, the Mini-SAR instrument detected ice deposits near the moon's northern pole.

More recently, Nasa provided ground observation support for Isro's Mars mission.

The four-day-long astronautical Congress with its theme of 'Our World needs space' will see more than 3000 space scientists and astronauts come together and discuss possible areas of collaboration.