NASA to Launch ISS Instrument to Monitor Ocean Winds


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NASA announced this week that it will launch an instrument called the ISS-RapidScat to the International Space Station (ISS) next year to measure ocean winds. The instrument, originally built to test NASA;s QuikScat satellite, will measure the Earth's ocean surface wind speed and direction. The data will improve weather forecasts and hurricane monitoring.

"The ability for NASA to quickly reuse this hardware and launch it to the space station is a great example of a low-cost approach that will have high benefits to science and life here on Earth," said Mike Suffredini, NASA's International Space Station program manager.

Scatterometers measure the scattering effect produced when scanning the Earth's surface using a microwave radar sensor. The previous wind data instrument, the QuikScat, stopped collecting ocean wind data in 2009 after operating for 10 years. No replacement will be available soon, which is why NASA adapted existing QuikScat hardware.

"ISS-RapidScat represents a low-cost approach to acquiring valuable wind vector data for improving global monitoring of hurricanes and other high-intensity storms," said Howard Eisen, ISS-RapidScat project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "By leveraging the capabilities of the International Space Station and recycling leftover hardware, we will acquire good science data at a fraction of the investment needed to launch a new satellite."

The ISS-RapidScat will be launched to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. It will be installed on the end of the ISS's Columbus laboratory and have measurement accuracy "similar" to QuikScat. The instrument is expected operate for two years.

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/JSC)