CYGNSS mission satellite

The U-M-led CYGNSS mission celebrates its fifth anniversary

What began as a two-year mission to measure hurricane winds has expanded far beyond its original scope.


The eight-satellite constellation is celebrating five years on orbit!
NASA CYGNSS mission principal investigator Prof. Chris Ruf looks at what the mission has accomplished, and where it’s going in a new blog post at NASA’s Earth Observatory blog.

Chris Ruf
Chris Ruf, Frederick Bartman Collegiate Professor of Climate and Space Science and CYGNSS mission principal investigator

“Five Years and Counting – Happy Birthday to the CYGNSS Octuplets!

“The CYGNSS constellation of 8 SmallSats was launched into low Earth orbit five years ago, on December 15, 2016. It began as a two-year mission to study how well GPS signals reflected from the ocean surface can help us measure the winds in hurricanes and improve our ability to forecast them. Well, we’ve done that, but it turns out those reflected signals can tell us a lot more. One of the key reasons we’ve been able to learn about all the other applications is the extra time we’ve had on orbit, to make more measurements, study their sensitivity to other environmental parameters, construct new data products, and develop scientific uses for them.

For that, I am sincerely grateful to the team of technicians, engineers and managers at the Southwest Research Institute and the Space Physics Research Lab who designed, built, tested and now operate the spacecraft, and to our partners at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. who designed and built the GPS receivers that take our science measurements. They were given a schedule, a budget and a two-year requirement for on-orbit operations. We got to orbit on time and under budget and here we are, five years later, still making high quality observations with each GPS receiver on every spacecraft at 100% duty cycle. I am also very grateful to NASA for the support they have provided and for their willingness to expand the scope of CYGNSS science as we discover new, exciting and impactful things we can do with our mission.

Read the full post here.