May 24, 2017 – On May 22, NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) began regular production of its science data products – measurements of ocean surface wind speed and roughness – with public release of these data facilitated by the NASA Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center (PO.DAAC). The production and distribution is timed to coincide with the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.
CYGNSS – a constellation of eight microsatellite spacecraft launched into low inclination, low-Earth orbit over the tropics on December 15 – will make frequent measurements of ocean surface winds in the tropics, with a primary objective of monitoring the location, intensity, size, and development of tropical cyclones.
The ability of the CYGNSS constellation to track the development of surface winds in a major storm is demonstrated by preliminary measurements made during its flyover of Tropical Cyclone Enawo on March 6, as the system approached Madagascar with surface winds in excess of 100 mph.
“Successive spacecraft in the constellation observed Enawo over a period of several hours just before it made landfall on Madagascar,” explained Chris Ruf, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Michigan and CYGNSS Principal Investigator. “During the flyover, four of our eight spacecraft were operating in science mode and we managed to capture important elements of the size and structure of the storm.” According to Ruf, the other four spacecraft were still undergoing engineering commissioning activities. “Those activities are now largely complete and, as we enter the Atlantic hurricane season, we expect to have all eight of them available for science observations. This will effectively double our sampling and coverage.”
The CYGNSS mission is led by the University of Michigan, with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, leading the engineering development and operation of the constellation. SwRI hosts the mission operations center at its Boulder, Colorado location. The University of Michigan Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering department leads the science investigation, and the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate oversees the mission.