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Watching Earth's winds, on a shoestring
Date:10/30/2013

vations of the winds over the ocean are used by meteorologists to improve weather and hurricane forecasts and by the operational weather communities to improve numerical weather models," said Rodrguez.

Space-based scatterometer instruments have been built before, but much of what makes ISS-RapidScat unusual is how it came to be. "Space Station Program Manager Michael Suffredini offered us a mounting location on the space station and a free ride on a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission launching in early 2014," explained Howard Eisen, the ISS-RapidScat project manager at JPL. "So we had about 18 months to put together an entire mission."

This accelerated timeline is a blink of an eye at NASA, where the typical project is years or decades in the making.

Free ride

Next, Eisen and his team turned to getting creative and crafty with the mission's hardware. In lieu of using newly-designed instruments, which would be expensive and take too long to develop, ISS-RapidScat reuses leftover hardware originally built to test parts of the QuikScat mission. That process involved dusting off and testing pieces of equipment that hadn't seen the light of day since the 1990s. Fortunately the old hardware seems ship-shape and ready to go. "Even though they were spares, they've done an excellent job so far," said Simon Collins, ISS-RapidScat's instrument manager at JPL. Despite their age, the old parts are more than capable of collecting the ocean wind data that ISS-RapidScat need to be a success.

In addition to old spare parts, some new hardware was needed to interface this instrument to the space station and the Dragon spacecraft. ISS-RapidScat will use off-the-shelf, commercially-available computer hardware instead of the expensive, hardened-against-radiation computer chips that are typically used in space missions. "If there's an error or something because of radiation, all we have to do is reset the computer. It's what we call a
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Contact: Alan Buis
Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov
818-354-0474
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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