NASA is launching a constellation of eight satellites to better monitor hurricanes. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) is a flock of eight micro-satellites, which which will improve weather forecasts for the intensity of cyclones. Although forecasts of hurricanes have improved by 50 percent since the 1990s, there has been little progress when it comes to correctly predicting their intensities.
A CYGNSS craft being prepared in a lab. Image: Larry Walther/ NASA
A CYGNSS craft being prepared in a lab. Image: NASA
The CYGNSS constellation will scrutinise the regions beneath the eyewall, as well as the inner rainbands of hurricanes. Both measurements are possible for the first time from space because of the CYGNSS flock. Frank Peri, director of the Earth Systems Science Program Office (ESSPO), based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, says “This mission will help us get a better idea of the intensity of tropical cyclones.”
The launch for the CYGNSS constellation is not a regular rocket launch. Instead of being a passenger on board a rocket that lifts off a launchpad, the rocket with the payload will be launched in mid air from the belly of Orbital ATK’s Pegasus aircraft, at an altitude of 39,000 feet. The rocket will free fall for five seconds, before firing in the air, and re-orienting itself upwards towards space. Three stages of the rocket will fire and fall away, before the CYGNSS constellation is released into orbit. The Pegasus is the world’s first privately developed launch vehicle.
There is a 40 percent chance that the launch could be delayed because of bad weather. If that happens, the launch will be postponed by one day, with a 20 percent chance of disruption by bad weather. The launch coverage will begin Live on NASA TV and can be seen here from 5:30 PM, IST, today.