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CYGNSS hurricane satellite mission passes major review milestone

Space Science & Engineering

For immediate release

San Antonio — March 25, 2014 — NASA has given a preliminary go-ahead to the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) to proceed with instrument development, vehicle construction and eventual launch of the hurricane-studying mission’s eight microsatellites.

The mission passed NASA’s Key Decision Point-C after its recent mission Preliminary Design Review. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) leads development and integration of the eight microsatellites, and a team of engineers and scientists at SwRI will now focus on design and hardware definition for the mission.

Weather models do a much better job of predicting the path of hurricanes than predicting changes in their intensity. The CYGNSS mission will help address that issue. Conceived at the University of Michigan, CYGNSS will place a constellation of eight microsatellites into low-Earth orbit. Using reflected GPS signals to measure ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation and convective dynamics, CYGNSS will determine how a tropical cyclone forms and if and by how much it will strengthen, thereby helping to advance forecasting and tracking methods.

“Our design clearly demonstrates that CYGNSS has the potential to fundamentally improve the forecasting of tropical cyclones,” says Dr. Chris Ruf, CYGNSS principal investigator and professor of the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences (AOSS) department at the University of Michigan.

“During the next phase, we’ll be working out the details on the design of the mission leading up to the mission Critical Design Review,” says John Scherrer, CYGNSS program manager and program director in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. “We will also start to see our first engineering model hardware in preparation for defining our flight development, which is really exciting.”

CYGNSS is the second award in the Earth Venture-class series of rapidly developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and the first award for space-based investigations. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program. These small, targeted science investigations complement NASA’s larger research missions. NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., manages the Earth System Science Pathfinder program.

For more information, contact Maria Stothoff, (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.
04/15/14