Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — Construction has started on the first of eight small satellites in the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) constellation, NASA announced in an Aug. 19 press release.

CYGNSS is NASA’s second principal investigator-led Earth Science Venture-class mission. The constellation is scheduled to launch in late 2016 on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Science operations would begin during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.

The CYGNSS constellation will measure ocean surface winds during tropical storms and hurricanes using direct and reflected GPS signals. Mission costs are capped at $151.7 million over five years, including development, launch, operation and data analysis.

Each CYGNSS satellite measures roughly 50-by-60-by-30 centimeters and weighs about 30 kilograms.

CYGNSS’s principal investigator is Chris Ruf of the University of Michigan. Partners on the project are: mission integrator Southwest Research Institute; instrument payload provider Surrey Satellite Technology U.S.; and Sierra Nevada Corp., which is supplying the spacecraft deployment module.

NASA will seek proposals for the next Earth Science Venture-class mission in late August or September, NASA spokesman Steven Cole wrote in an Aug. 12 email

Dan Leone is a SpaceNews staff writer, covering NASA, NOAA and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public communications from the American University in Washington.