When NASA isn’t checking out its Saturn-cruising cameras or compiling a collection of hundreds of awesome GIFs, it’s doing its best to save us from catastrophic storms. Today, the agency successfully deployed a bunch of tiny satellites that could change the way weather forecasters are able to predict the movement and intensity of hurricanes.
The satellites form NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS for short), but they weren’t sent up by a massive rocket. This fleet of space eyes was shot into space from an airplane — a Lockheed L-1011 jet airliner to be exact. The craft, which was specially modified to carry out this important mission, reached an altitude of 39,000 feet before deploying a three-stage Pegasus XL rocket, carrying the constellation of satellites along with it.
The tiny satellites were released in pairs as the rocket sped along, and all eight of them were alive and well after being released. Members of the CYGNSS team are extremely happy with the results. “The orbit is right on the money of what we’ve been modeling,” CYGNSS Principal Investigator Chris Ruf noted in NASA’s announcement.
A NASA F-18 came along for the ride, and filmed the deployment as it happened, offering a fantastic birds-eye view of the satellites cruising into space.
The satellites will begin their duties of monitoring storms in short order, as NASA plans to begin receiving scientific data from them, but the crafts still need to be moved into their final positions before the the real fun — and by “fun” I mean tirelessly relaying data on hurricanes and cyclones to keep us silly humans from being swept away — can begin.