NASA, on Thursday, launched a set of eight satellites to study the intensity of hurricanes. The satellites with CYGNSS or Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System was originally scheduled to launch on December 12 but was again rescheduled due to some software issues. The satellite was put into the low-Earth orbit by Pegasus XL rocket by Orbital ATK, a US aerospace firm. The rocket was launched at  8.37 a.m.

As planned, the Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket carrying onboard the CYGNSS flew over the Atlantic Ocean from the Orbital’s L-1011 (Stargazer) carrier aircraft. It flew for about 39,000 feet and then released the rocket.

A hitch in the release system of the L-1011 Stargazer, which is composed of a hydraulic system which releases the Pegasus rocket from the carrier aircraft, delayed the launch. The system worked perfectly during the pre-flights of the aircraft. The launch was scheduled for Wednesday so that replacement L-1011 aircraft carrier components arrive from Mojave; California could be installed.

What is CYGNSS?

The CYGNSS is composed of a constellation of eight small satellites which will be carried to orbit by a single launch vehicle. The microsatellites will receive direct signals as well as reflected signals from GPS satellites. Direct signals will help to pinpoint the systems observatory positions while the reflected signals will depend upon ocean surface roughness and from it the wind speed can be calculated.

The satellite system will try to understand the relationship between radiation and convective dynamics, ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, to find out how a tropical cyclone is formed and whether it will intensify or weaken. This will help in warning and tracking of the storm. It will also help researchers and weather scientists to understand air and sea interaction processes which are believed to happen in the eye or the core of a storm.