Boulder‘s Southwest Research Institute mission with NASA extended

NASA has extended the Cyclone Global Navigation System mission, a constellation of microsatellites whose operations are led by Boulder‘s Southwest Research Institute, for an additional year and a half..

The CYGNSS satellites, also designed and built by SwRI, have made history over the past two years by penetrating thick clouds and heavy rain to accurately assess wind speeds and improve the understanding of the way hurricanes can intensify, according to a news release.

Assessments have established that all eight microsatellites — each of them about the size of carry-on luggage — as well as their subsystems remain healthy and capable of sustaining two more years of operations. Flying in formation, they fly in an orbital swath that passes over most of the planet‘s hurricane-prone zone, up to 35 degrees north and south of the Equator.

“Launched in late 2016, the spacecraft have provided round-the-clock surface wind speed measurements to help improve intensity forecasting of tropical cyclones,” SwRI‘s William Wells, CYGNSS operations phase systems engineer, said in a statement.

“The extended mission opens the door for many new science opportunities, in addition to continuing the primary mission objectives. We are making some engineering and operational changes to enable new types of science while maximizing science returns in this second phase.”

SwRI led the engineering development and manages the operation of the microsatellite constellation.

The University of Michigan Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department leads the science investigation, and the Earth Science Division of NASA‘s Science Mission Directorate oversees the mission, according to the release.

SwRI‘s Boulder office is home to the mission operations center, which commands the spacecraft, gathers the telemetry and sends the data to the science operations center at the University of Michigan.

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