Hurricanes, and typhoons, are some of the most deadly forces nature can throw at us humans. The more devastating of these powerful storms, like Typhoon Haiyan, can sometimes kill tens of thousands of people and utterly devastate the surrounding area. Being able to predict and track the formations of these weather patterns is necessary if we want to be able to prevent this catastrophic loss of life in the future. In December of 2016, Nasa launched the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System to do just that. The CYGNSS is 8 small satellites packed with the latest in microchip and sensor technology that will measure wind speed by reflecting GPS signals.
The data collected from the CYGNSS satellites will help scientists not only predict hurricanes in a more timely manner, thus theoretically saving thousands of lives in the worst cases, but will also aid in the understanding of how these deadly storms are formed. The frequency of measurement will be reduced from every three days to every seven hours. This reduction in time needed to collect data, along with the ability to estimate wind speeds may mean we will no longer need to fly planes with sensors into these storms to get accurate data, thus limiting the danger to pilots as well. We won’t be sure how many lives will actually be saved by this technology yet, but the potential remains great.
The technology on this $157 million project also allows researchers to look through rain that traditionally obscures viewing, and into the eye of a hurricane for the first time.
Each of the small 64 lb. satellites were launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and are now sitting in low earth orbit. They are currently undergoing testing and are planned to be ready for use in the spring of 2017.