NASA mission to measure hurricane intensification with SwRI-built satellites

NASA is readying eight microsatellites, designed and built for NASA at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) for a Dec. 12 launch with a goal to measure wind speeds and hurricane intensification, the administration said.

Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) constellation will see through thick clouds and heavy rains to measure the movement of ocean waves beneath hurricanes. CYGNSS marks the first time SwRI has engineered and constructed complete satellites for the agency.

After launch, the eight microsatellites will be oriented in a pattern that allows successive satellites to pass over the same region every 12 minutes, with a median revisit time of less than three hours. Once positioned, the satellites will operate with minimal course adjustments throughout the two-year primary mission.

The CYGNSS constellation will be air launched from a Pegasus XL launch vehicle dropped from an L-1011 Stargazer aircraft. A chase plane will broadcast live footage of the launch. The microsatellites are expected to deploy and begin testing and operations within the first 24 hours. Full hurricane science operations are expected to begin in January 2017.

The CYGNSS Mission Operations Center at SwRI facilities in Boulder, Colo. will receive the microsatellites´ data and route them to the science operations center at the University of Michigan after initial processing. The space physics research laboratory at the University of Michigan College of Engineering leads the overall mission execution, and its climate and space sciences and engineering department leads the science investigation.

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 2,800 employees and an annual research volume of USD592 million. Southwest Research Institute and SwRI are registered marks in the US Patent and Trademark Office.