Technology Weather Science

NASA’s RapidScat-ISS is a DIY dream

Republicans looking for “wasteful government spending” should look elsewhere than the team at NASA/JPL. When pressed to solve a problem, the engineers are perfectly ready, willing and able to put together old parts to make something new.

Case in point, NASA’s ISS-RapidScat system. Planned to be installed into the International Space Station in 2014, RapidScat is a scattetometer that microwaves to study the scattering patterns of wind. This new tool, aimed at studying oceanic wind currents and their effect on high energy storms like hurricanes, is being cobbled together from parts of another scatterometer, the QuickScat satellite that stopped working in 2009:

ISS-RapidScat will have measurement accuracy similar to QuikScat’s and will survey all regions of Earth accessible from the space station’s orbit. The instrument will be launched to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. It will be installed on the end of the station’s Columbus laboratory as an autonomous payload requiring no interaction by station crew members. It is expected to operate aboard the station for two years.

ISS-RapidScat will take advantage of the space station’s unique characteristics to advance understanding of Earth’s winds. Current scatterometer orbits pass the same point on Earth at approximately the same time every day. Since the space station’s orbit intersects the orbits of each of these satellites about once every hour, ISS-RapidScat can serve as a calibration standard and help scientists stitch together the data from multiple sources into a long-term record.

The original QuickScat satellite stopped working in 2009, the new ISS launch is expected to last for two years, and next-generation equipment is being looked into for the next step.