Press Release

CYGNSS hurricane satellite mission passes major review milestone

By SpaceRef Editor
March 27, 2014
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San Antonio – March 27, 2014 – NASA has given a preliminary go-ahead to the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) to proceed with instrument development, vehicle construction and eventual launch of the hurricane-studying mission’s eight microsatellites.

The mission passed NASA’s Key Decision Point-C after its recent mission Preliminary Design Review. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) leads development and integration of the eight microsatellites, and a team of engineers and scientists at SwRI will now focus on design and hardware definition for the mission. 

Weather models do a much better job of predicting the path of hurricanes than predicting changes in their intensity. The CYGNSS mission will help address that issue. Conceived at the University of Michigan, CYGNSS will place a constellation of eight microsatellites into low-Earth orbit. Using reflected GPS signals to measure ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation and convective dynamics, CYGNSS will determine how a tropical cyclone forms and if and by how much it will strengthen, thereby helping to advance forecasting and tracking methods. 

“Our design clearly demonstrates that CYGNSS has the potential to fundamentally improve the forecasting of tropical cyclones,” says Dr. Chris Ruf, CYGNSS principal investigator and professor of the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences (AOSS) department at the University of Michigan.

“During the next phase, we’ll be working out the details on the design of the mission leading up to the mission Critical Design Review,” says John Scherrer, CYGNSS program manager and program director in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. “We will also start to see our first engineering model hardware in preparation for defining our flight development, which is really exciting.”

CYGNSS is the second award in the Earth Venture-class series of rapidly developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and the first award for space-based investigations. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program. These small, targeted science investigations complement NASA’s larger research missions. NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., manages the Earth System Science Pathfinder program.

About SwRI:

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 3,000 employees and an annual research volume of $592 million. Southwest Research Institute and SwRI are registered marks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For more information about Southwest Research Institute, please visit or


SpaceRef staff editor.