NASA Scatterometry Timeline

  • Released Thursday, July 14, 2016

Since the 1970’s, NASA has carried out a series of missions that have focused on monitoring winds over the ocean surface from space. The first attempt occurred when NASA built a “technology demonstration” instrument that flew onboard NASA’s Skylab—the United States’ first space station—from 1973 to 1979. This successful demonstration showed that remotely sensed measurements of ocean surface winds were indeed possible using space-based scatterometers. NASA launched its second scatterometer, the SeaSat-A Scatterometry System (SASS), onboard the SeaSat-A satellite in 1978. It was not until nearly twenty years later, in August 1996, that NASA would launch the NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT), onboard the JAXA’s Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS-I). Following the end of the NSCAT mission, NASA built two identical SeaWinds scatterometry instruments. The first launched in 1999 on NASA’s Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) satellite. The second SeaWinds instrument launched onboard the Japanese ADEOS-II satellite in 2002. With the loss of the functionality of both SeaWinds instruments, NASA refurbished a spare QuikSCAT instrument to fly on the International Space Station (ISS), called the ISS Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat), which was installed on the station in 2014.

In 2016, the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) will become NASA’s first satellite mission to measure surface winds in the inner core of tropical cyclones, including regions beneath the eyewall and intense inner rainbands that could not previously be measured from space. These measurements will help scientists obtain a better understanding of what causes variations in tropical cyclone intensity, helping to improve our ability to forecast tropical cyclones such as Hurricane Katrina.

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, July 14, 2016.
This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 12:32 AM EST.


This visualization is related to the following missions: