ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station
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The Science Team Members can be viewed here.  

The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), will monitor one of the most basic processes in living plants: the loss of water through the tiny pores in leaves. When people lose water through their pores, the process is called sweating. The related process in plants is known as transpiration. Because water that evaporates from soil around plants also affects the amount of water that plants can use, ECOSTRESS will measure combined evaporation and transpiration, known as evapotranspiration (ET). ECOSTRESS will address 3 science questions:

  • How is the terrestrial biosphere responding to changes in water availability?
  • How do changes in diurnal vegetation water stress impact the global carbon cycle?
  • Can agricultural vulnerability be reduced through advanced monitoring of agricultural water consumptive use and improved drought estimation?

Three science objectives have been identified to address these questions:

  • Identify critical thresholds of water use and water stress in key biomes (e.g., tropical/dry transition forests, boreal forests);
  • Detect the timing, location, and predictive factors leading to plant water uptake decline and/or cessation over the diurnal cycle;
  • Measure agricultural water consumptive use over CONUS at spatiotemporal scales applicable to improving drought estimation accuracy.

ECOSTRESS will meet these objectives by measuring the thermal infrared brightness temperatures (BT) of plants and using that information to derive their evapotranspiration (ET). These measurements will be made CONUS-wide and over key biomes around the world as well as in European and South Asian agricultural zones, and selected FLUXNET validation sites. The figure below shows the sites the ECOSTRESS will measure. The instrument is capable of measuring additional sites, provided the sufficient downlink capability is provided by the International Space Station.

coverage map

Figure 1 . Red polygons represent the original high priority targets for acquisition.  Note instrument is capable of additional coverage and can be commanded to acquire data over additional regions given sufficient downlink.

coverage full map

Figure 2 . Represent the actual coverage area acquisition as of 19 March 2020. 

Table 1. Science Observable Requirements for ECOSTRESS

ParameterScience Requirement at 400 km

Ground Sample Distance (m) Crosstrack x Downtrack at nadir

≤ 100 x ≤100

Swath width (ISS nominal altitude range is 385 to 415 km)


Wavelength range (µm)


Number of bands


Radiometric accuracy (K@300K)


Radiometric precision (K@300K)


Dynamic Range (K)


Data coverage

CONUS, twelve 1,000 x1,000 km key climate zones and twenty-five Fluxnet sites for all opportunities.

Data collection

On average 1 hour of science data per day