What is small enough to fit in an airliner carry-on bin and has the potential to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars worth of property? The answer is the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) – NASA’s next-generation hurricane-observing microsatellites, which are now being assembled at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas.
Hurricanes can change direction and intensity without warning and what looks like a mild one headed safely out to sea can quickly gain power and turn landward. Unfortunately, current satellite monitoring systems can only look at such storms periodically, which can lead to some nasty surprises.
CYGNSS consists of a constellation of eight microsatellites and its purpose is to improve hurricane forecasting. It does this by, for the first time, measuring ocean surface winds in and near the inner core of tropical cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes throughout their life cycles, thereby providing better predictions of a hurricane’s intensity, track, and storm surges.