Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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NASA's Hurricane Prediction Project Completes Preliminary Design Review

Posted: January 24, 2014

NASA's Hurricane Prediction Project Completes Preliminary Design Review

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), led by the University of Michigan, recently completed NASA’s preliminary design review (PDR). This key project milestone validated the design of the new hurricane and extreme weather prediction system.

To successfully complete the PDR, the CYGNSS team had to demonstrate that the overall design of the satellites, ground operations, and science data analysis algorithms met all system requirements within acceptable risk limitations.

CYGNSS is a constellation of eight small satellites that will be carried to low-Earth orbit on a single launch vehicle. The satellites aim to improve weather forecasting by making accurate measurements of ocean surface winds in and near the eye of the storm throughout the full life cycle of tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes.

These measurements will advance forecasting methods by providing data that can lead to reliable predictions of hurricane intensity. Hurricane track forecasts have improved in accuracy by about 50% since 1990, but in that same period there has been essentially no improvement in the accuracy of intensity forecasts.

The CYGNSS team has been working tirelessly since the project began in December 2012 to produce a detailed baseline design for the mission.

“Our design clearly demonstrates that CYGNSS has the potential to fundamentally improve the forecasting of tropical cyclones,” says Dr. Chris Ruf, CYGNSS principal investigator and professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan.

In addition to Professor Ruf, the CYGNSS mission team is compromised of several members of the University of Michigan community, including atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences professors Derek Posselt and Aaron Ridley as well as space physics research laboratory (SPRL) staff members Bruce Block, Linda Chadwick, Steve Musko, Jon Van Noord and Damen Provost.

The next major milestone after the PDR is the Mission Confirmation in February 2014.

“If we are successful there, we can begin to build and test the satellites, then prepare them for launch” Ruf says.

The mission is scheduled to launch in October 2016, which will give the team plenty of time to prepare for science operations during the 2017 hurricane season.

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