Space

May 16, 2014

NASA’s newest wind watcher arrives at launch site

Components of NASA’s International Space Station-RapidScat instrument rest side by side in Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility after arrival. ISS-RapidScat will measure Earth’s ocean surface wind speed and direction from the station, data that will be used for weather and marine forecasting.

A new NASA Earth-observing mission that will measure ocean winds from the International Space Station has arrived at NASAís Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin final preparations for launch.

The International Space Station-RapidScat scatterometer instrument arrived May 12 after a cross-country trip from NASAís Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The instrument, built at JPL, now will undergo final tests before being stowed aboard a SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo resupply spacecraft. The Dragon will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, no earlier than August.

ISS-RapidScat is NASA’s first scientific Earth-observing instrument specifically designed and developed to operate from the exterior of the space station. It will measure near-surface ocean wind speed and direction in Earthís low and middle latitudes during its two-year mission. Its data will be used to support weather and marine forecasting, including tracking storms and hurricanes, as well as climate studies.

Winds over the ocean are a critical factor in determining regional weather patterns and studying climate. High winds in severe storms also can inflict major damage to shore populations and shipping. In some regions, ocean winds drive warm surface ocean waters away from coastlines, causing nutrient-rich deep water to rise to the surface, where they provide a major source of food for coastal fisheries. Changes in ocean winds also help us monitor large-scale changes in Earthís climate variations, such as El Nino and La Nina.

Since 1999, NASAís QuikScat satellite, along with satellites operated by international partners, has provided ocean surface winds information for use by the science and operational weather forecasting communities. In 2009, after 10 years of successful operations, QuikScatís scatterometer instrument stopped providing ocean wind data.

Scatterometers are radar sensors that bounce microwaves off the ocean surface and measure the strength and direction of the echoes that return. The echoes are scattered by the presence of wind-driven waves on the ocean surface. ISS-RapidScat will help fill the gap left by the loss of these data and will extend a 15-year ocean wind climate record.

ISS-RapidScatís berth on the space station will put it in an orbit that is unique from any other wind-measuring instrument currently in space. This orbit, with an altitude that varies from 233 to 270 miles (375 to 435 kilometers), will give scientists the first near-global direct observations of how ocean winds vary over the course of the day, while adding extra eyes in the tropics and midlatitudes to track the formation and movement of tropical cyclones. Its 560-mile-wide (900-kilometer) observation swath creates a map of winds over most of the ocean between 51.6 degrees north and south of the equator every 48 hours.

ISS-RapidScat also will extend the continuity and usefulness of the scatterometer data record from the international constellation of ocean wind satellites. Currently, satellites in the constellation observe at different times of the day. Using the space stationís orbit, it will be possible for ISS-RapidScat to observe areas where the orbits of the other scatterometers in the constellation intersect at the same time. This capacity will allow scientists to correct for previously unknown relative errors between the different wind satellites and extend QuikScatís 10-plus-year record to create a continuous record.

ISS-RapidScat was developed in just a year-and-a-half, at roughly one-tenth the cost of developing a traditional satellite mission. Its development approach leverages space station capabilities and a combination of new industrial-grade hardware and older inherited hardware used to develop and test QuikScat. Additional cost savings are achieved by launching the instrument aboard a scheduled space station cargo resupply mission.

After arriving at the space station, ISS-RapidScat will be installed on the external payload facility on the Columbus module using the stationís robotic arm. The arm will be controlled from the ground during installation. ISS-RapidScat is an autonomous payload, requiring no interaction from station crew members.

ISS-RapidScat is a partnership between JPL and the International Space Station Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, with support from the Earth Science Division of NASAís Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Other mission partners include Kennedy; NASAís Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; the European Space Agency; and SpaceX. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about ISS-RapidScat, visit:
http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/RapidScat/

NASA monitors Earthís vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earthís interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

ISS-RapidScat is the third of five NASA Earth science missions scheduled to be launched this year, the most new NASA Earth-observing mission launches in the same year in more than a decade. For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities in 2014, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/station




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines November 26, 2014

News: When Hagel leaves, new SecDef faces big questions about the military’s future - President Obama’s new pick to run the Pentagon will face a dizzying set of challenges affecting the Defense Department’s mission, budget and culture. Who will be the next Secretary of Defense?- Following the Nov. 24 surprise announcement from the White House, the...
 
 

News Briefs November 26, 2014

Navy to decommission two more ships in Puget Sound The Navy recently decommissioned the guided missile frigate USS Ingraham at Everett, Wash. It will be towed to Bremerton and scrapped. The Daily Herald reports the Navy also plans to decommission another ship at the Everett homeport and also one stationed in Bremerton. Naval Station Everett...
 
 

NASA airborne campaigns tackle climate questions from Africa to Arctic

NASA photograph The DC-8 airborne laboratory is one of several NASA aircraft that will fly in support of five new investigations into how different aspects of the interconnected Earth system influence climate change. NASA photograph The DC-8 airborne laboratory is one of several NASA aircraft that will fly in support of five new investigations into...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Rick Goodfriend

16T Pitch Boom reactivated to support wind tunnel tests

Air Force photograph by Rick Goodfriend The Pitch Boom at the AEDC 16-foot transonic wind tunnel (16T) was recently reactivated. This model support system is used in conjunction with a roll mechanism to provide a combined pitch...
 
 

Northrop Grumman supports U.S. Air Force Minuteman missile test launch

Northrop Grumman recently supported the successful flight testing of the U.S. Air Force’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system. The operational flight test was conducted as part of the Air Force Global Strike Command’s Force Development Evaluation Program. This program demonstrates and supports assessment of the accuracy, availability and reliability of the...
 
 
army-detector

Scientists turn handheld JCAD into a dual-use chemical, explosives detector

Scientists at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., proved it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks by adding the ability to detect explosive materials to the Joint Chemical Age...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>