NASA is hoping these miniature satellites will be a huge breakthrough that could make forecasts ironclad and instant.
With all of the technology we have, hurricanes remain incredibly unpredictable which can result in people dying from incorrect forecasts — NASA is hoping to put an end to all that with a fleet of micro-satellites.
Hurricane Katrina is an excellent case in point at just how our lack of understanding of hurricanes can prove costly and deadly, as even though forecasters had a good idea of where the storm would hit and its general intensity, the flooding it caused came as a complete surprise, according to a Discovery News report.
So what did scientists miss when it came to Katrina? What happened was 24 hours after the last reconnaissance flights by Hurricane Hunter shortly before the storm made landfall, an upper-level shear struck the eyewall, causing it to tilt over and the winds to move horizontally, allowing water levels to spike and causing the catastrophe that we are familiar with today, which ended up killing 1,800 people.
NASA realized what was needed was a way to track these hurricanes constantly and watch them throughout their entire life cycle in order to make on-the-spot adjustments that might save lives. This new constellation of micro-satellites, the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) would improve hurricane forecasts by collecting data on the storm every few hours.
The satellites would be positioned 317 miles above the planet, and inclined 35 degrees relative to the equator, according to the report. The network will include eight satellites and it will bounce GPS signals through the storm and off the ground and then back up into space, measuring the changes and using the data to determine wind speeds and other important storm data.
This technology is called Global Navigation Satellite System Reflectometry. It’s been used on aircraft before, but never in space. CYGNSS is scheduled to be launched next year.