NASA Assessing New Roles for Ailing QuikScat Satellite

November 24, 2009
Artist's concept of QuikScat. Image credit: NASA/JPL

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA mission managers are assessing options for future operations of the venerable QuikScat satellite following the age-related failure of a mechanism that spins the scatterometer antenna. This spinning antenna had been providing near-real-time ocean- surface wind speed and direction data over 90 percent of the global ocean every day.

In recent months, the QuikScat project team has been monitoring a pattern of increasing friction in the bearings that allow the antenna to spin, leading to increased resistance and strain on the motor that turns QuikScat's rotating antenna. This degradation was fully expected, as the spin mechanism was designed to last about 5 years.

After experiencing further difficulties over the weekend, the antenna stopped spinning early today, Nov. 23. The QuikScat spacecraft and scatterometer instrument themselves remain in otherwise good health. Should engineers be unable to restart the antenna, QuikScat will be unable to continue its primary science mission, as the antenna spin is necessary to estimate wind speed and direction and form the wide data swath necessary to obtain nearly global sampling.

Over the coming days, NASA managers will review contingency plans for restarting the antenna and assess options for using the mission in its present degraded state to advance Earth system science in the event the cannot be restarted. For example, degraded scatterometer measurements from QuikScat can still be useful for cross-calibrating the mission's record with measurements from other scatterometers, including the operational EUMETSAT ASCAT instrument, India's recently launched Oceansat-2 and a planned Chinese scatterometer. Specific operational forecasting applications such as measurements and limited hurricane observations may also be supportable.

By any measure of success, the 10-year-old QuikScat mission is a unique national resource that has achieved and far surpassed its science objectives. Designed for a two-year lifetime, QuikScat has been used around the globe by the world's operational meteorological agencies to improve weather forecasts and identify the location, size and strength of hurricanes and other storms in the open ocean. The mission has also provided critical information for monitoring, modeling, forecasting and researching our atmosphere, ocean and climate.

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: QuikScat Sees Santa Barbara 'Quick Dry'

Related Stories

QuikScat Sees Santa Barbara 'Quick Dry'

May 12, 2009

Hot weather just before the Santa Barbara, Calif., wildfire quickly dried up soil moisture from rain one day prior, contributing to the fire danger.

Ocean Wind Power Maps Reveal Possible Wind Energy Sources

July 9, 2008

Efforts to harness the energy potential of Earth's ocean winds could soon gain an important new tool: global satellite maps from NASA. Scientists have been creating maps using nearly a decade of data from NASA's QuikSCAT ...

QuikScat Finds Tempests Brewing In 'Ordinary' Storms

June 26, 2009

"June is busting out all over," as the song says, and with it, U.S. residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts begin to gaze warily toward the ocean, aware that the hurricane season is revving up. In the decade since NASA's ...

NASA's satellite imagery sees Hilda hit a wall

August 27, 2009

Two days ago, Hilda was in prime shape to strengthen further as she tracked westward, far south of the Hawaiian Islands. Today, as a result of winds and cooler waters, she's weakened to a tropical depression, and NASA satellites ...

Recommended for you

The atmospheres of water worlds

October 23, 2017

There are currently about fifty known exoplanets with diameters that range from Mars-sized to several times the Earth's and that also reside within their stars' habitable zone – the orbital range within which their surface ...

Dawn mission extended at Ceres

October 20, 2017

NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PPihkala
not rated yet Nov 24, 2009
10 years of service when one designed only for 2. That's good value for money. Maybe into the successor they will be able to put a better joint.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.