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NASA's new wind mission installed, gathers first data

06 October 2014

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NASA's newest Earth observing mission, the International Space Station-Rapid Scatterometer, or ISS-RapidScat, is collecting its first science data on ocean wind speeds and direction following its successful installation and activation on the exterior of the station's Columbus module.

Ground controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston robotically assembled the RapidScat instrument and its nadir adapter, which orients the instrument to point at Earth, on 29 and 30 September. On 1 October, the instrument was powered on, its antenna began spinning and it started transmitting and receiving its first winds data. The team then began checking out the instrument, a process expected to take about two weeks. Checkout activities to date are proceeding nominally. Following instrument checkout, the team will perform two weeks of preliminary calibration and validation of science data. RapidScat will then be ready to begin its two-year science mission.

On 3 October, mission scientists processed their first winds data and produced their first uncalibrated images: a partial global map of wind speeds and a close-up image of what was then Tropical Storm Simon, brewing off the west coast of Mexico, showing its wind speeds and wind directions at approximately 7 p.m. local time. The new images are available at: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/pia18824

"Most satellite missions require weeks or even months to produce data of the quality that we seem to be getting from the first few days of RapidScat," said RapidScat Project Scientist Ernesto Rodriguez of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, which built and manages the mission. "We have been very lucky that within the first days of operations we have already been able to observe a developing tropical cyclone.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech - Tropical Storm Simon as seen by ISS-RapidScat

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