NASA Tests Tiny Satellites to Track Global Storms
Xeber24.net _ Nasa
RainCube : is a mini weather satellite, no bigger than a shoebox, that will measure storms. It’s part of several new NASA experiments to track storms from space with many small satellites, instead of individual, large ones.
How many times have you stepped outside into a surprise rainstorm without an umbrella and wished that weather forecasts were more accurate?
A satellite no bigger than a shoebox may one day help. Small enough to fit inside a backpack, the aptly named RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) uses experimental technology to see storms by detecting rain and snow with very small instruments. The people behind the miniature mission celebrated after RainCube sent back its first images of a storm over Mexico in a technology demonstration in August. Its second wave of images in September caught the first rainfall of Hurricane Florence.
The small satellite is a prototype for a possible fleet of RainCubes that could one day help monitor severe storms, lead to improving the accuracy of weather forecasts and track climate change over time.
“We don’t have any way of measuring how water and air move in thunderstorms globally,” said Graeme Stephens, director of the Center of Climate Sciences at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We just don’t have any information about that at all, yet it’s so essential for predicting severe weather and even how rains will change in a future climate.”
RainCube “sees” objects by using radar, much as a bat uses sonar. The satellite’s umbrella-like antenna sends out specialized radar signals, that bounce off raindrops, bringing back a picture of what the inside of the storm looks like.
Because RainCube is miniaturized, making it less expensive to launch, many more of the satellites could be sent into orbit. Flying together like geese, they could track storms, relaying updated information on them every few minutes. Eventually, they could yield data to help evaluate and improve weather models that predict the movement of rain, snow, sleet and hail.