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New NASA storm-forecasting satellites see through rain and see often

November 21, 2016 - SPACE

NASA launches eight suitcase-sized satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida, that make up its new Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) to improve storm forecasting.

CYGNSS will be able to see through rain, which prevents present-generation weather satellites from measuring winds near the center of a hurricane, and it collect key data every few hours. Traditional polar-orbiting satellites collect data every few days.

Specialized aircraft, called Hurricane Hunters, have instruments that can augment traditional satellite data, but the planes have a limited range since they have fuel for just 10 to 12 hours.

From their orbital perches 317 miles above the planet and inclined 35 degrees relative to the Equator, the eight-member network will pick up Global Positioning System satellite signals that travel through the storm and bounce back up into Space.

They will be launched together aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus rocket, which is carried by a L-1011 jet named Stargazer.

CYGNSS will be operational in time for the 2017 hurricane and cyclone season.

Date written/update: 2016-09-18