MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Diane Ainsworth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 1999
NASA'S NEW OCEAN-OBSERVING SATELLITE SET TO CHASE THE WIND
Built in record time in just 12 months, QuikScat, NASA's new
ocean-observing satellite, will be launched on a Titan II rocket
from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:15 p.m. Pacific
Daylight Time on June 18. This satellite will be NASA's next "El
Niņo watcher" and will be used to better understand global
The Quick Scatterometer, or QuikScat, will provide
climatologists, meteorologists and oceanographers with daily,
detailed snapshots of ocean winds as they swirl above the world's
oceans. The mission will greatly improve weather forecasting.
Winds play a major role in every aspect of weather on Earth.
They directly affect the turbulent exchanges of heat, moisture
and greenhouse gases between Earth's atmosphere and the ocean. To
better understand their impact on oceans and improve weather
forecasting, the satellite carries a state-of-the-art radar
instrument called a scatterometer for a two-year science mission.
"Knowledge about which way the wind blows and how hard is it
blowing may seem simple, but this kind of information is actually
a critical tool in improved weather forecasting, early storm
detection and identifying subtle changes in global climate," said
Dr. Ghassem Asrar, associate administrator of NASA's Office of
Earth Science, Washington, DC.
The mission will help Earth scientists determine the
location, structure and strength of severe marine storms -
hurricanes in the Atlantic, typhoons near Asia and mid-latitude
cyclones worldwide - which are among the most destructive of all
natural phenomena. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), a chief partner in the QuikScat mission,
will use mission data for improved weather forecasting and storm
warning, helping forecasters to more accurately determine the
paths and intensities of tropical storms and hurricanes.
As NASA's next "El Niņo watcher," QuikScat will be used to
better understand global El Niņo and La Niņa weather
abnormalities. Changes in the winds over the equatorial Pacific
Ocean are a key component of the El Niņo/La Niņa phenomenon.
QuikScat will be able to track changes in the trade winds along
Scatterometers operate by transmitting high-frequency
microwave pulses to the ocean surface and measuring the
"backscattered" or echoed radar pulses bounced back to the
satellite. The instrument senses ripples caused by winds near the
ocean's surface, from which scientists can compute the winds'
speed and direction. The instruments can acquire hundreds of
times more observations of surface wind velocity each day than
can ships and buoys, and are the only remote-sensing systems able
to provide continuous, accurate and high-resolution measurements
of both wind speeds and direction regardless of weather
The satellite is the first obtained under NASA's Indefinite
Delivery/Indefinite Quantity program for rapid delivery of
satellite core systems. The procurement method provides NASA
with a faster, better and cheaper method for the purchase of
satellite systems through a "catalog," allowing for shorter
turnaround time from mission conception to launch. Total mission
cost for QuikScat is $93 million.
Fifteen times a day, the satellite will beam down collected
science data to NASA ground stations, which will relay them to
scientists and weather forecasters. SeaWinds will provide ocean
wind coverage to an international team of climate specialists,
oceanographers and meteorologists interested in discovering the
secrets of climate patterns and improving the speed with which
emergency preparedness agencies can respond to fast-moving
weather fronts, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural
By combining QuikScat's wind data with information on ocean
height from another ocean-observing satellite, the joint NASA-
French TOPEX/Poseidon mission, scientists will be able to obtain
a more complete, near-real-time look at wind patterns and their
effects on ocean waves and currents, said Dr. Timothy Liu,
QuikScat project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, CA. He added that QuikScat will complement data being
collected by other Earth-monitoring satellites such as NASA's
currently orbiting Tropical Rain Measurement Mission (TRMM) and
Terra, which will be launched later this year.
The 870-kilogram (1,910-pound) QuikScat satellite, provided
by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, CO, with its
200-kilogram (450-pound) radar instrument, called SeaWinds, will
be placed in a circular, near-polar orbit with a ground speed of
6.6 kilometers per second (14,750 miles per hour). The satellite
will circle Earth every 101 minutes at an altitude of 800
kilometers (500 miles).
A press kit with detailed information on the QuikScat launch
and mission is available on the Internet at
QuikScat is managed for NASA's Office of Earth Science,
Washington, DC, by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which also
built the Seawinds radar instrument and will provide ground
science processing systems. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, MD, managed development of the satellite, designed and
built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, CO.
NASA's Earth Sciences Enterprise is a long-term research and
technology program designed to examine Earth's land, oceans,
atmosphere, ice and life as a total integrated system. JPL is a
division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.