Topex/Poseidon data

A major milestone has been reached in NASA's development of "faster, better, cheaper" space missions with the delivery of the SeaWinds instrument, NASA's next generation El Nino monitoring device, to Ball Aerospace in Boulder, CO for integration into the Quick Scatterometer (QuikScat) satellite.

QuikScat is a mission designed to complete turnaround from conception to orbit in a very short period of time. "One of the real challenges of this mission is having to do it in a year. The delivery of the instrument to Ball Aerospace signifies that we are on schedule and headed to our one-year goal," said Jim Graf, the QuikScat project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. "This is the first major JPL Earth science mission to have a development time of approximately one year, from approval to launch, since the Explorer 1 satellite in the late 1950s."

The SeaWinds instrument on the QuikScat satellite uses specialized microwave radar that measures both the speed and direction of winds near the ocean surface. Winds directly affect the turbulent exchanges of heat, moisture and greenhouse gases between the atmosphere and the ocean. Changes in the winds along the equator play a key role in the formation of the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also is supporting the mission and will use the mission data for improved weather forecasting and storm warning, helping forecasters to more accurately determine the paths and intensities of tropical storms and hurricanes. The versatile instrument also will be used by climate change researchers, weather forecasters and commercial shipping interests.

SeaWinds on QuikScat will use a rotating dish antenna with two microwave beams and will radiate microwaves across 90 percent of the Earth's ice-free oceans every day. The instrument will collect wind speed and wind direction data in a continuous 1,800-kilometer-wide (1,118-mile-wide) band, making approximately 400,000 measurements each day.

The QuikScat satellite mission will restart the ocean wind data stream which was lost when Japan's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS) with a NASA Scatterometer onboard ceased functioning on June 30, 1997. Before the loss of ADEOS, NASA was able to obtain valuable data about summer and winter monsoon seasons and the onset of the El Nino event.

QuikScat is scheduled for launch in November 1998, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, on a Titan II launch vehicle. QuikScat is the first contract under NASA's Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity program for rapid delivery of satellite core systems. The procurement method provides NASA a faster, better, cheaper method for the purchase of satellite systems through a "catalog," allowing for shorter turnaround time from mission conception to launch. Total mission costs for QuikScat are $93 million.

JPL's NSCAT/ SeaWinds Program Office is responsible for SeaWinds and provided overall project management, as well as science ground processing systems and the SeaWinds instrument. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, manages development of the satellite that is being designed and fabricated by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. The QuikScat mission is part of NASA's Earth Sciences enterprise, a long-term research program designed to study Earth's land, oceans, atmosphere, ice and life as a total integrated system.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

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