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NASA Decommissions Ocean Wind Monitoring System Aboard ISS

Nov 30, 2016 05:01 AM EST
International Space Station
NASA officially decommissioned the ocean wind monitoring instrument aboard the International Space Station.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration have officially decommissioned the ocean wind monitoring instrument aboard the International Space Station.

The decision to terminate the mission of the ISS Rapid Scatterometer, or RapidScat, was made after the instrument malfunctioned earlier this year. In August 19, the electrical power distribution in the station's Columbus module malfunctioned, causing RapidScat and several other instruments to lose power.

According to the report from Space.com, controllers tried to reactivate the instruments, but one of the outlets on the power distribution unit overloaded. While space station controllers successfully restored power to other instruments, they were not able to power up the RapidScat again. After failing the last attempt to power up wind monitoring instrument in October 17, NASA decided that it is time for RapidScat to retire.

The RapidScat is a low-cost space instrument assembled using spare parts of its predecessor, QuickScat. With only a shoestring budget of $26 million, the scientists decided to attach the RapidScat in the ISS, instead of building another dedicated spacecraft. The infrastructure aboard the ISS provided power and data to RapidScat. However, many scientists do not consider the orbit of the ISS ideal for Earth science observations.

"As a first-of-its-kind mission, ISS-RapidScat proved successful in providing researchers and forecasters with a low-cost eye on winds over remote areas of Earth's oceans," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth science division, in a report from Space Flight Now. "The data from ISS-RapidScat will help researchers contribute to an improved understanding of fundamental weather and climate processes, such as how tropical weather systems form and evolve."

Launched into space using unpressurized trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft in September 2014, the RapidScat has been fully operational since October 2014. NASA plans to remove the RapidScat equipment from the ISS in 2017. So far, NASA has no plans in creating a replacement for RapidScat. Instead, the space agency noted that it will use data from the Indian spacecraft ScatSat-1, which has similar scaterrometer instrument and was launched in September.

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