SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) — A new system to study and predict the formation and behavior of hurricanes, designed at the University of Michigan, has received a preliminary review go-ahead by NASA.

Passing NASA Key Decision Point C means the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) project can proceed with instrument development, vehicle construction and eventual launch of the hurricane-studying mission’s eight microsatellites.

Weather models do a much better job of predicting the path of hurricanes than predicting changes in their intensity. The CYGNSS mission will help address that issue by placing a constellation of eight microsatellites into low-Earth orbit. Using reflected GPS signals to measure ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation and convective dynamics, CYGNSS will determine how a tropical cyclone forms and if and by how much it will strengthen, thereby helping to advance forecasting and tracking methods.

The mission passed the decision point after its recent mission Preliminary Design Review. The Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas leads development and integration of the eight microsatellites, and a team of engineers and scientists at SRI will now focus on design and hardware definition for the mission.

“Our design clearly demonstrates that CYGNSS has the potential to fundamentally improve the forecasting of tropical cyclones,” said Chris Ruf, CYGNSS principal investigator and professor in the atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences department at UM.

Added John Scherrer, CYGNSS program manager at the SRI space science and engineering division: “During the next phase, we’ll be working out the details on the design of the mission leading up to the mission Critical Design Review. We will also start to see our first engineering model hardware in preparation for defining our flight development, which is really exciting.”

CYGNSS is the second award in the Earth Venture-class series of rapidly developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and the first award for space-based investigations. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program. NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. manages the Earth System Science Pathfinder program.

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