SwRI building 8 NASA nanosatellites to help predict extreme weather events on Earth

Jun 21, 2012

NASA has selected a team including Southwest Research Institute to develop the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will provide better prediction capabilities for extreme weather events, particularly the intensification of hurricanes.

Tropical cyclones develop over warm bodies of water and typically consist of an "eye" — a center of low pressure — and intense, rotating thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rains. Heat drawn up from the water produces energy through a complex process that can feed and strengthen the storm, spawning tornadoes and causing significant damage as it moves over land.

CYGNSS will study the relationship between properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation and convective dynamics to determine how a tropical forms and if and by how much it will strengthen, thereby helping to advance forecasting and tracking methods.

"The system will allow us to probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to understand their rapid intensification," says Dr. Chris Ruf, CYGNSS principal investigator and professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "This will allow us to observe and understand the complete life cycle of storms and, thereby, understand the thermodynamics and radiation that drive their evolution. Our goal is a fundamental improvement in hurricane forecasting."

A single launch vehicle will carry CYGNSS' constellation of eight nanosatellite observatories into low-Earth orbit for deployment. Once in orbit, the observatories will receive Global Positioning System signals both directly from the GPS satellites and reflected from the Earth's surface. The direct signals pinpoint CYGNSS observatory positions, while the reflected signals respond to ocean surface roughness, which determines wind speeds.

Southwest Research Institute leads development and integration of the eight nanosatellites. Other partners include Surrey Satellite Technology, which will provide the Delay Doppler Mapping Instrument, and the Ames Research Center, which will provide the Deployment Module.

"In leading the development of the CYGNSS observatories, we are building on our heritage of spacecraft avionics and subsystem design and developments," says Dr. Jim Burch, vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. "It is a natural next step in the evolution of our support to NASA."

The primary objective of the mission is to measure the ocean surface wind speed in almost all precipitating conditions and in the tropical cyclone core; however, CYGNSS measurements should also be helpful to the hurricane forecasting community.

Explore further: Bright points in Sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA to fly into hurricane research this summer

Jul 07, 2010

Three NASA aircraft will begin flights to study tropical cyclones on Aug. 15 during the agency's first major U.S.-based hurricane field campaign since 2001. The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes ...

Recommended for you

SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

12 hours ago

The SpaceX company returned to orbit Friday, launching fresh supplies to the International Space Station after more than a month's delay and setting the stage for urgent spacewalking repairs.

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

12 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

15 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

15 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

18 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...