The first NASA Earth-observing instrument, RapidScat, to be mounted on the exterior of the space station will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on the next SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services flight towards the end of September. ISS-RapidScat will monitor ocean winds for climate research, weather predictions and hurricane monitoring from the space station.
The second instrument is the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a laser instrument that will measure clouds and the location and distribution of airborne particles such as pollution, mineral dust, smoke, and other particulates in the atmosphere. CATS will follow ISS-RapidScat on the fifth SpaceX space station resupply flight, and is scheduled for installation in December.
The data provided by ISS-RapidScat will support weather and marine forecasting, including tracking storms and hurricanes. CATS is a laser remote-sensing instrumentthat measures clouds and tiny aerosol particles in the atmosphere. These atmospheric components play a critical part in understanding how human activities such as pollution and fossil fuel burning contribute to climate change.
The space station-based instruments join a fleet of 17 NASA Earth-observing missions currently providing data on the dynamic and complex Earth system. ISS-RapidScat and CATS follow the February launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, a joint mission with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the July launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.
Two additional NASA Earth science instrument, SAGE III and LIS, are scheduled for launch in 2016. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III (SAGE III), will measure aerosols, ozone, water vapour and other gases in the upper atmosphere to help scientists assess how the ozone layer is recovering and better understand global climate change.
The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) will detect and locate lightning over tropical and mid-latitude regions of the globe. The first LIS was launched in 1997 as part of NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. The sensor will monitor lightning for Earth science studies and provide cross-sensor calibration and validation with other space-borne instruments and ground-based lightning networks.
Although the space station does not pass over Earth’s Polar Regions, NASA scientists said that it would offer logistical and scientific advantages.