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QuikSCAT's Replacement, the RapidScat Ocean Wind Sensor, Installed on Space Station


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  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne


    In November 2009, one of the greatest success stories in the history of satellite meteorology came to an end when the venerable QuikSCAT satellite failed. Launched in 1999, the QuikSCAT satellite became one of the most useful and controversial meteorological satellites ever to orbit the Earth. It carried a scatterometer--a radar instrument that can measure near-surface wind speed and direction over the ocean. Forecasters world-wide came to rely on QuikSCAT wind data to issue timely warnings and make accurate forecasts of tropical and extratropical storms, wave heights, sea ice, aviation weather, iceberg movement, coral bleaching events, and El Niño. Originally expected to last just 2 - 3 years, QuikSCAT made it past ten, a testament to the skill of the engineers that designed the satellite. A QuikSCAT replacement called ISS-RapidScat was funded in 2011 and built in just 18 months. RapidScat was successfully launched on September 20, 2014 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, which docked last week with the International Space Station (ISS.) This morning, astronauts on the ISS used the station's robotic arm to pluck RapidScat out of the Dragon and install it on the Space Station. The heaters have been turned on, and full activation of RapidScat is expected on Wednesday. In a clever reuse of hardware originally built to test parts of NASA's QuikScat satellite, RapidScat cost NASA just $30 million--80% lower than if the instrument had been built new.



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