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NASA Plans 6 Small Satellite Missions to Support Earth Science Research

CubeSatNASA aims to launch six small satellite missions beginning this month to study Earth’s hurricanes, energy budget, aerosols and weather.

The agency said Tuesday small satellites are often deployed as “secondary payload” aboard other missions’ rockets.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes CubeSat will be launched this month to monitor changes in Earth’s energy budget at the top of the atmosphere to help identify greenhouse gas effects on climate, NASA added.

NASA also plans to launch IceCube and the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter CubeSats in 2017 to provide data that will support scientists’ study of clouds.

IceCube is designed to measure cloud ice through a miniature high-frequency microwave radiometer while HARP is built to measure airborne particles and the distribution of cloud droplet sizes.

The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration will also be deployed in 2017 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 to gather data on temperature, water vapor and cloud ice for weather forecasting and storm tracking, NASA added.

NASA will launch Cyclone, Global Navigation Satellite System — a constellation of eight small satellites that will measure wind intensity over the ocean in efforts to provide insights into tropical cyclones.

The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats or TROPICS will explore insides of hurricanes through a constellation of 12 CubeSats, according to the agency.

TROPICS will use radiometer instruments based on MiRaTA to regularly measure temperature and water vapor profiles throughout the life cycle of every storm, the agency added.

NASA’s Earth science technology office funds and manages RAVAN, HARP, IceCube and MiRaTA while CYGNSS and TROPICS also benefited from the office’s technology investments.

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