Weather News

Jul 8, 2014 10:43 AM by Stephen Bowers

NASA Mission To Monitor Earth's Winds

NASA has announced plans to launch a new wind-measuring instrument.

The instrument, called a scatterometer, will measure winds over Earth's oceans. A previous scatterometer instrument, called "QuickScat," stopped working in 2009. The new instrument, ISS-RapidScat, will be attached to a berth on the International Space Station. 

The instrument, which was built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will be the first modern scatterometer to not be locked in a sun-synchronous orbit, meaning each time it passes a particular spot on earth the time of day will be different.

NASA said in a press release, "Winds contribute to motion in the ocean on every scale, from individual waves to currents extending thousands of miles. They affect local weather as well as large-scale, long-term climate patterns such as El Niño. Across the tropical Pacific, winds help or hinder local economies by allowing nutrient-rich water to well up from the ocean depths, nourishing marine life to the benefit of coastal fisheries, or blocking its upwelling."

NASA says RapidScat is the third of five Earth science missions to be launched in 2014, the most in a single year to be launched in over a decade.

RapidScat will hitch a free ride to the International Space Station aboard a cargo mission already scheduled to resupply the ISS later this year.


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