NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive Header




Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) uses a constellation of eight micro-satellite observatories carried to orbit on a single launch vehicle. The measurement methodology to be employed by CYGNSS will rely on the characterization of the signal propagation from the existing constellation of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites located at approximately 20,000 km above the Earth’s surface, as well as on the nature of the scattering of these signals by the ocean surface. In orbit, each CYGNSS observatory will receive both direct and scattered signals from the GPS satellites. The direct signals will help pinpoint CYGNSS observatory positions, while the scattered signals respond to ocean surface roughness, from which wind speed is retrieved.

Each CYGNSS observatory will carry a Delay Doppler Mapping Instrument (DDMI). The observatories will use under 60 watts of power, less than an incandescent light bulb, and weigh less than 30 kg. In orbit, they deploy solar panels to reach the size of a full grown swan. The solar panels will be used to collect incoming radiation (energy) from the sun that will recharge the onboard batteries that power the observatories. A benefit of using a constellation of microsatellite observatories is that they will pass over the ocean more frequently than a single satellite would, resulting in a more detailed view of the ocean’s surface.

The data collected by CYGNSS will have significant applications for both the scientific community and the general public. The added quality and quantity of surface wind data to be provided by CYGNSS, combined with precipitation fields produced by NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement mission, will provide data that will allow hurricane forecasters to improve weather forecast models used to predict both the track and intensity of land-falling hurricanes. Given that the track and intensity of hurricanes play a key role in the development of storm surge, improvements in the forecast of these variables will provide emergency managers a powerful tool in their efforts to provide adequate warning to the general public regarding the likely location and magnitude of dangerous hurricane storm surge. Such advanced warning will be vital in the implementation of action plans designed to protect the human health and welfare of coastal communities.

The CYGNSS Science Applications team is working with groups and individuals that will likely be the first users of the data generated by the constellation. These “early adopters” include individuals from from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), university scientists and private research organizations

Alternate Names

  • 41891

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2016-12-15
Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Earth Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office

[] NASA Logo -