WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA's International Space Station Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat) Earth science instrument has ended operations following a successful two-year mission aboard the space station. The mission launched Sept. 21, 2014, and had recently passed its original decommissioning date.
ISS-ISS-RapidScat used the unique vantage point of the space station to provide near-real-time monitoring of ocean winds, which are critical in determining regional weather patterns. Its measurements of wind speed and direction over the ocean surface have been used by agencies worldwide for weather and marine forecasting and tropical cyclone monitoring. Its location on the space station made it the first space-borne scatterometer that could observe how winds evolve throughout the course of a day. "As a first-of-its-kind mission, ISS-RapidScat proved successful in providing researchers and forecasters with a low-cost eye on winds over remote areas of Earth's oceans," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division. "The data from ISS-RapidScat will help researchers contribute to an improved understanding of fundamental weather and climate processes, such as how tropical weather systems form and evolve." The agencies that routinely used ISS-RapidScat's data for forecasting and monitoring operations include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Navy, along with European and Indian weather agencies. It provided more complete coverage of wind patterns far out to sea that could build into dangerous storms. Even if these storms never reach land, they can bring devastating wave impacts to coastal areas far away. "The unique coverage of ISS-RapidScat allowed us to see the rate of change or evolution in key wind features along mid-latitude storm tracks, which happen to intersect major shipping routes," said Paul Chang, Ocean Surface Winds Science team lead at NOAA's Center for Satellite Applications and Research. "ISS-RapidScat observations improved situational awareness of marine weather conditions, which aid optimal ship routing and hazard avoidance, and marine forecasts and warnings." During its mission, ISS-RapidScat also provided new insights into research questions such as how changing winds over the Pacific drove changes in sea surface temperature during the 2015-2016 El Niño event. Due to its unique ability to sample winds at different times of day, its data will be useful to scientists for years to come.