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NASA has extended the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission for an additional year and a half. The constellation of microsatellites designed and built at Southwest Research Institute has made history over the last two years, penetrating thick clouds and heavy rains to accurately assess wind speeds and better understand hurricane intensification. Assessments confirmed that all eight spacecraft and their subsystems are healthy and ready to support two more years of operations.
The microsatellites—each roughly the size of carry-on luggage—make frequent measurements of ocean surface winds to monitor the location, intensity, size and development of tropical cyclones. Flying in formation, the spacecraft cover an orbital swath that passes over most of the Earth's hurricane-producing zone, up to 35 degrees north and south of the Equator.
Spacecraft - Surface - Speed - Measurements - Intensity
"Launched in late 2016, the spacecraft have provided round-the-clock surface wind speed measurements to help improve intensity forecasting of tropical cyclones," said SwRI's William Wells, CYGNSS operations phase systems engineer. "The extended mission opens the door for many new science opportunities, in addition to continuing the primary mission objectives. We are making some engineering and operational changes to enable new types of science while maximizing science returns in this second phase."
This science is critical because, over the last few decades, forecasters have improved hurricane path prediction significantly, but the ability to predict the intensity of storms has lagged behind. Collecting data in the midst of a storm is difficult and dangerous, but conventional space technology could not provide accurate measurements. GPS signals penetrate intense rainstorms, and CYGNSS uses these signals, reflected off the ocean surface, to calculate wind speeds.
"For the extended mission, we are ramping...
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