Artist's rendering of NASA's ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset), which will launch to the International Space Station in 2014 to measure ocean surface wind speed and direction and help improve weather forecasts, including hurricane monitoring. It will be installed on the end of the station's Columbus laboratory. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JSC) Enlarge

Jan. 29, 2013 — In a clever reuse of hardware originally built to test parts of NASA's QuikScat satellite, the agency will launch the ISS-RapidScat instrument to the International Space Station in 2014 to measure ocean surface wind speed and direction.

The ISS-RapidScat instrument will help improve weather forecasts, including hurricane monitoring, and understanding of how ocean-atmosphere interactions influence Earth's climate.

"The ability for NASA to quickly reuse this hardware and launch it to the space station is a great example of a low-cost approach that will have high benefits to science and life here on Earth," said Mike Suffredini, NASA's International Space Station program manager.

ISS-RapidScat will help fill the data gap created when QuikScat, which was designed to last two years but operated for 10, stopped collecting ocean wind data in late 2009. A scatterometer is a microwave radar sensor used to measure the reflection or scattering effect produced while scanning the surface of Earth from an aircraft or a satellite.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have studied next-generation replacements for QuikScat, but a successor will not be available soon. To meet this challenge cost-effectively, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the agency's station program proposed adapting leftover QuikScat hardware in combination with new hardware for use on the space station.

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