NASA Ends ISS RapidScat Mission

IAS Prelims 2023

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-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 spaceborne 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.

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.

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.

ISS-RapidScat was the first continuous Earth-observing instrument specifically designed and developed to operate on the International Space Station exterior, but it’s no longer the only one.

The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) joined the space station in January 2015 to provide cost-effective measurements of atmospheric aerosols and clouds in Earth’s atmosphere.

Two more instruments are scheduled to launch to the space station in 2017 — one that will allow scientists to monitor the ozone layer’s gradually improving health, and another to observe lightning over Earth’s tropics and mid-latitudes.