NASA Building Microsatellites To Better Track & Predict Hurricanes

In an effort to prevent a reoccurrence of the Hurricane Katrina disaster from ten years ago, NASA is currently working on project that will see satellites used to observe hurricanes from space, and improve forecasts of their movements. The mission is called CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System), and relies on eight microsatellites — as opposed to one, large satellite — working in a group. Together, they will be the first such crafts to be able to frequently look into the inner core of an active storm.

In order to improve predictions of hurricanes and other tropical storms, including cyclones and typhoons, CYGNSS will take measurements of winds along the ocean surface near the storm's eye. This will lead to better, and quicker, estimates of the direction wind currents are moving in.

The other big advantage to using a constellation of satellites is that they can provide meteorologists with new images of a storm every few hours, instead of days apart like with a single satellite. This will hopefully prevent situation where scientists are caught off guard by a hurricane's sudden change in direction or increase in momentum.

NASA says it's only recently begun assembling the satellites, and that they are preparing for tests in early 2016. Each unit will weigh about 64 pounds, with measurements of roughly 20in x 25in x 11in, and have a 5.5-foot wingspan. The current plan is to launch CYGNSS in late 2016, with it starting operations during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.