NASA Extends $39 million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System Mission

Posted: June 23, 2021

The Ohio State University’s role in an approximately $39 million NASA project was recently extended.

NASA awarded a contract to the University of Michigan for the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) for mission operations and closeout. The CYGNSS Science Operations Center is located at the University of Michigan.

With a constellation of eight microsatellites, the system can view storms more frequently and in a way traditional satellites are unable to, increasing scientists’ ability to understand and predict hurricanes.

With the extension of funding, Ohio State continues its role in the project that started in October 2012 when the mission was first selected. Research Scientists Andrew O’Brien and Alexandra Bringer, along with Professor Joel Johnson are part of the ElectroScience Laboratory team involved. Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar Tianlin Wang, who recently joined Ohio State after graduating from the University of Michigan, is also continuing his research for the mission. Together, the team is supporting the University of Michigan in the calibration and validation efforts as CYGNSS satellites start performing remote sensing over land. They also provide support for the general science team and engineering activities.

For decades, NASA has played a leading role in using Earth-observing satellites to collect the data required to feed numerical weather prediction models. CYGNSS continues that work, using a remote sensing technique called GNSS Reflectometry (GNSS-R) to see through heavy rain to estimate the strength of surface winds in the inner cores of hurricanes.

“CYGNSS has been a pioneering mission that has given us new insight into the dynamics of rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “CYGNSS is also a powerful tool for flood detection on land and ocean microplastic debris detection – that’s the kind of added value we love to see, and it’s paving the way for more science that will have significant societal benefits.”

The measurements from CYGNSS are useful for research in algorithm development, analysis to assist with future modeling efforts, and Earth system process studies.

Further operations will enable new research looking at long-term climate variability and increase the sample size of extreme events that can assist with modeling and forecasting. CYGNSS satellites continue to take 24/7 measurements of ocean surface winds, both globally and in tropical cyclones, which can be used to study meteorological processes and improve numerical weather forecasts. On land, the satellites take continuous measurements of flood inundation and soil moisture that are used in hydrological process studies and for disaster monitoring.

For more information about the CYGNSS mission, visit: