Behind every weather forecast—from your local, five-day prediction to a late-breaking hurricane track update—are the satellites that make them possible. Government agencies depend on observations from weather satellites to inform forecast models that help us prepare for approaching storms and identify areas that need evacuating or emergency first responders.
Weather satellites have traditionally been large, both in the effort needed to build them and in actual size. They can take several years to build and can be as big as a small school bus. But all of that could change in the future with the help of a shoebox-sized satellite NASA that will start orbiting Earth later this month.
The NASA-funded CubeSat called Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) will be launched into Earth’s orbit from the rocket carrying the next big U.S. weather satellite (JPSS-1) into space. MiRaTA is designed to demonstrate that a small satellite can carry instrument technology that’s capable of reducing the cost and size of future weather satellites and has the potential to routinely collect reliable weather data.