NASA Hurricane Satellite Mission Passes Major Review
Senior NASA officials, mission scientists, engineers, and staff gathered at the University of Michigan recently for one of the final milestones in the CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigational Satellite System) mission's progress toward launch in late November. CYGNSS is a constellation of eight small satellites carried to orbit on a single launch vehicle. In orbit, satellite micro-observatories will study the relationship between ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation and convective dynamics. CYGNSS scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the formation of cyclones and hurricanes in order to help improve storm prediction and tracking.
The group came together for a three-day session to conduct three of the last major reviews of the mission prior to launch: the Pre-Ship Review (PSR), the Operations Readiness Review (ORR), and theMission Readiness Review (MRR). The reviews confirmed the overall fitness of the satellites, as well as the readiness of the ground operations that will provide support for the spacecraft throughout the duration of the mission.
The reviews began with the Pre-Ship Review by CYGNSS mission scientists and engineers. The group evaluated the results of environmental and functional testing performed of the satellites, and confirmed that they were ready for integration on the CYGNSS launch vehicle. On day two, the Operations Readiness Review was conducted by the NASA Standing Review Board, an independent group charged with assessing mission progress and readiness ahead of key decision points. The ORR was focused on the functional readiness of CYGNSS ground operations, and ongoing satellite support through the Science Operations Center (SOC) in Ann Arbor, MI, and the Mission Operations Center (MOC) in Boulder, CO. All aspects of ground support were reviewed, including data transmission and processing, networking, and communications. On the third day, the SRB recommended that the CYGNSS mission proceed to launch vehicle integration.
Until recently, the CYGNSS satellites were at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), where testing was conducted over the summer. Earlier this month, the spacecraft were carefully packaged and shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, CA. where they will be mounted onto the satellite deployment module. In late October, after further safety and readiness evaluations, the eight satellite “flight stack” will be affixed to the Pegasus XL rocket that will ultimately deliver them to orbit.
In early November, the Pegasus will be attached to the belly of an L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, and flown from Vandenberg AFB to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to await launch. The CYGNSS mission launch is scheduled for 7:05 a.m. EST, Monday, November 21st from Cape Canaveral AFS.
CYGNSS is a joint effort between NASA and the University of Michigan's Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering department. The CYGNSS mission also receives support from the Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) at the University of Michigan, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd (SSTL), and Orbital ATK.