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Thursday, June 21, 2012

NASA SELECTS TROPICAL STORM STUDY FOR SMALL SPACEFLIGHT INVESTIGATIONS


Photo:  Hurricane Katrina Aftermath.  Credit:  FEMA.
NASA 
WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected an ocean wind study proposal led by
the University of Michigan from among 19 submitted to the agency's
Announcement of Opportunity for small spaceflight investigations of
the Earth system. The proposed mission will make accurate
measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the life cycle of
tropical storms and hurricanes, which could help lead to better
weather forecasting.

The competitively-selected proposal, the Cyclone Global Navigation
Satellite System (CYGNSS), is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Chris
Ruf of the University of Michigan, and includes partnerships with the
Southwest Research Institute of Texas, Surrey Satellite Technology of
Colorado and NASA Ames Research Center.

It is the second award, and first award for space-based
investigations, in the Earth Venture-class series of rapidly
developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA's Earth Science
Division. The award will be funded during the next five years for
$151.7 million. The cost includes initial development, launch,
deployment and data analysis.

The mission will use a constellation of small satellites that will be
carried to orbit on a single launch vehicle. The CYGNSS data will
enable scientists, for the first time, to probe key air-sea
interaction processes that take place near the inner core of the
storms, which are rapidly changing and play large roles in the
genesis and intensification of hurricanes. The CYGNSS measurements
also may provide information to the hurricane forecast community.

Once in orbit, CYGNSS's eight micro-satellite observatories will
receive both direct and reflected signals from Global Positioning
System (GPS) satellites. The direct signals pinpoint CYGNSS
observatory positions, while the reflected signals respond to ocean
surface roughness, from which wind speed is retrieved.

"The CYGNSS mission is both a scientific and a programmatic advance
for NASA’s Earth science and applications program," said John
Grunsfeld, NASA's Science Mission Directorate associate administrator
in Washington. "CYGNSS will provide vital science data on tropical
cyclones, and the CYGNSS team will advance our ability to obtain
high-quality Earth science data through smaller, more affordable
space systems."

The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA's Earth System Science
Pathfinder program. The small, targeted science investigations
complement NASA's larger research missions. In 2007, the National
Research Council recommended NASA undertake these types of regularly
solicited, quick-turnaround projects. The previous Earth Venture
award was for five airborne investigations all of which are
progressing well with initial data being collected. The first
Announcement of Opportunity in the Earth Venture-Instruments series
was issued earlier this year, and proposals are now under review.

The Earth Venture program is expected to continue with awards at
regular intervals for investigations using cutting edge
instrumentation carried on airborne platforms, on small space
missions, or as secondary instruments or hosted payloads on larger
platforms. NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., manages the
Earth System Science Pathfinder program for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate. The missions in this program provide an innovative
approach to address Earth science research with periodic windows of
opportunity to accommodate new scientific priorities.