Boulder-built and Operated QuikSCAT Provides 10 Years of Data on Earth's Climate
June 16, 2009
This month marks a decade of success for NASA's QuikSCAT mission, one that continues to provide a wealth of information about Earth's climate since its launch June 19, 1999. Although QuikSCAT's mission life was designed for two years, the spacecraft continues to operate into its tenth year and its groundbreaking research is being used to help predict severe weather patterns, create wave-prediction models and to observe global climate change. Observations taken by QuikSCAT revealed the most extensive ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctic regions since scientists began taking measurements from space 30 years ago.
QuikSCAT, short for Quick Scatterometer, was built in a record-breaking 12 months at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., for the Goddard Space Flight Center. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., with a team of professionals and undergraduate students at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), Boulder, Colo., performing mission operations.
"QuikSCAT has clearly demonstrated its reliability to both government and commercial customers, providing quality forecasting data to scientists and meteorologists - the type of data that could easily be extended with a new scatterometer mission," said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace.
QuikSCAT orbits the Earth 14 times per day, providing coverage of 90 percent of the planet's surface. The instruments aboard the satellite measure sea-surface winds measuring the brightness of radar returns over the ocean. Over the course of its mission, QuikSCAT has become critical in detecting hurricanes and extra-tropical cyclones; improving ocean forecasts and weather warnings; and identifying changes in polar ice.
At LASP, students have played a vital role in the mission operations of the QuikSCAT satellite. LASP is a rare institution in that it offers this type of hands-on, mission training for undergraduate students. Twenty undergraduate students work with mission operations professionals at LASP's facilities in Boulder, Colo., controlling five different spacecraft, including the recently launched Kepler mission.
"QuikSCAT continues LASP's long and successful history of having professionals working side-by-side with students to operate spacecraft for NASA and Ball Aerospace," said Darren Osborne, LASP's QuikSCAT flight director. "We're extremely proud to be part of the QuikSCAT team."
The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which began as the Upper Air Laboratory in 1948, is dedicated to making discoveries through the research and technology efforts of its atmospheric, space physics, solar, planetary, engineering and mission operations divisions.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. Since 1956, Ball Aerospace has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific 'firsts' and is a technology innovator in aerospace.
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