Wind-monitoring Small Sats Win $150M in NASA Backing

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WASHINGTON — NASA has selected a wind-monitoring microsatellite constellation as its next Earth Venture-class mission, the agency announced June 18.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), led by principal investigator Chris Ruf of the University of Michigan, will launch eight small satellites aboard a single launch vehicle. Other partners on the project include the Southwest Research Institute of Texas, small-satellite specialist Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Britain, and NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

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, NASA said in a June 18 press release.

CYGNSS is NASA’s second Earth science Venture-class mission. The first was the Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface, an airplane-based mission, which was selected in 2010 and began operating in March.

NASA’s next solicitation for a space-based Venture-class Earth science mission will be in 2015. Between now and then, the agency will solicit proposals for suborbital Venture-class missions, or Earth Science Venture-class Instrument missions that would fly as hosted payloads.

The Earth science Venture-class portfolio, a series of low-cost, quick-turnaround missions, is part of the Earth Science Pathfinder program managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Va.