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NASA Will Say Goodbye To The RapidScat Instrument; No Plans Of Replacing It

First Posted: Nov 30, 2016 03:08 AM EST
RapidScat: NASA's Newest Wind Watcher
Mission scientists and engineers describe how their small team, on a tight budget and short deadline, created the ISS-RapidScat instrument to gather high-priority measurements of ocean winds from a berth on the International Space Station.
(Photo : NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/YouTube)

NASA will be saying goodbye to the RapidScat instrument used to track the winds over the oceans globally. The instrument stopped working last Aug. 19.

The RapidScat by NASA is mounted on a platform outside the International Space Station. Its main purpose is to track winds over the world's oceans. However, its mission ended after a technical glitch that disabled the sensor earlier this year.

The RapidScat was assembled out of spare parts. It shortens the budget of $26 million compared to the full-up satellite mission that costs 10 times more. The instrument helps fill the data gap that left meteorologists lacking measurements to aid hurricane and typhoon forecasts.

Ocean Surface Winds Science team lead in NOAA's Center for Satellite Applications and Research Paul Chang said that "The unique coverage of ISS-RapidScat allowed us to see the rate of change or evolution in key wind features along mid-latitude storm tracks, which happen to intersect major shipping routes. ISS-RapidScat observations improved situational awareness of marine weather conditions, which aid optimal ship routing and hazard avoidance, and marine forecasts and warnings."

According to NASA, the RapidScat collected and beamed down measurements of wind speed and direction for nearly two years. Also, it offered insights into the intense tropical cyclones and large-scale climate phenomena.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was the one that designed and built the instrument. It is supposed to work for two years. It is somehow near its goal before the power system failure occurred.

On Aug. 19, because of the power distribution unit for the space station's Columbus module failed, it also resulted for the RapidScat to lose power. It is mounted on the Columbus module. The mission operations from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory tried to revive the instrument multiple times but they were not successful, according to Space Flight Now.

Meanwhile, NASA does not have the plan to launch another scatterometer mission. But the loss of the RapidScat data will be partially mitigated by the newly launched ScatSat ocean wind sensor. It is a mission coming from the Indian Space Research Organization.

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