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NASA to Launch Hurricane-Tracking Satellites

Nov 14, 2016 04:06 AM EST

After NASA's efforts to enhance its asteroid-predicting capabilities, the agency is now working towards hurricane tracking to enable advanced preparations when an incoming hurricane is in sight. To do so, new hurricane-tracking satellites will be deployed.

The "constellation" of small satellites, as NASA puts it, is scheduled for lift-off on Dec. 2 this year. The fleet of innovative satellites will work towards faster predictions of storm surge and track hurricane intensities. The satellites will monitor the weather systems from space in order to predict potential path and damages allowing the residents of the would-be target area to prepare and evacuate.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System will be sent to space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base launch pad in Florida. The fleet is composed of eight microsatellites capable of measuring and tracking wind speeds. However, the size of the satellite should not be the measure of their capabilities since each of the eight can gather four wind measurements per second.

"There's a gap in our knowledge of cyclone processes in the critical eyewall region of the storm -- a gap that will be filled by the CYGNSS data," Chris Ruf, principal investigator for the CYGNSS mission and professor at the University of Michigan's department of climate and space sciences and engineering, said in a statement. " The models try to predict what is happening under the rain, but they are much less accurate without continuous experimental validation."

The CYGNSS system is considered more advanced compared to other hurricane-tracking systems. It also uses the GPS technology and will incorporate it in studying hurricanes. Based on NASA's explanations, the CYGNSS mission will also be able to penetrate heavy rains, allowing for a more accurate reading. CYGNSS is also capable of reading a hurricane's eyewall that will help scientists measure the intensity on the inner core of a storm.

 "Today, we can't see what's happening under the rain," Chris Ruf, said in a press release by NASA. "We can measure the wind outside of the storm cell with present systems."

Managing eight advanced microsatellites is no easy feat. For this mission, the University of Michigan's Space Physics Research Laboratory helps the Southwest Research Institute in executing the mission.

NASA and the University of Michigan started the CYGNSS project in 2015. The microsatellites will reportedly be sent to space or the low-Earth orbit using Orbital ATK's Pegasus XL rocket.

 

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