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article imageNASA to use nanosatellites to track storms

By Tim Sandle     Oct 21, 2018 in Environment
NASA has begun using nanosatellites to track global storms. The technology is housed in hardware no large than shoebox. However, the tiny instrumentation on-board is highly accurate.
The new satellites have been placed in low-Earth orbit via the International Space Station. The satellites are RainCubes (which is a shortened version of Radar in a CubeSat). As a trial, the nanosatellites send back images a storm that blew across part of Mexico in August 2018, followed by some detailed images taken during September during Hurricane Florence.
The images taken of the major storm focused on the rainfall associated with the storm, and this should be the basis of using space technology to improve Earth sciences..
The satellite technology uses Ka-band precipitation radar technology fixed onto a quick-turnaround platform. The RainCube is a prototype that could become the template for an array of weather monitoring device. In essence these devices would act as miniaturized weather stations, with the necessary instrumentation reduce down to a tiny scale.
The aims are to monitor severe storms so that the path of the storms can be tracked and to seek improvements in terms of weather forecasts, such as predicting the movement of rain, snow, sleet, and hail. The data could also be used to make assessments about climate change, although this would require a larger time period.
The advancement in miniaturized technology means that the nanosatellites can be produced at a relatively low cost. This includes improved satellite communications using the Ka band, which allows for higher bandwidth communication.
The RainCube "umbrella-like" antenna sends out specialized radar signals (dubbed as ‘chirps’) which bounce off raindrops. This provides the basis for enhanced images of the inside of a storm, allowing researchers to track the storm activity and progress. This is much like an echo.
Speaking to EE New Europe, Graeme Stephens, who is the director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, adds: “We don't have any way of measuring how water and air move in thunderstorms globally.”
He adds: “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."
More about Storms, NASA, Satellites, Climate change
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