SpaceX launches new TEMPEST-D2 weather satellite sensor – The Rocky Mountain Collegian


(Graphic illustration by Sophia Sirokman | The Collegian)

Piper Russell, journalist

SpaceX, an aerospace company, recently launched a satellite sensor developed by researchers from Colorado State University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Christian Kummerow, a researcher for the project and a professor of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University, said SpaceX launched the satellite sensor to the International Space Station in December 2021. TEMPEST-D2, which stands for Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems — Demonstration 2, is part of the Space Test Program-Houston 8 mission for the United States Space Force.

TEMPEST-D2 is the second example of another sensor, TEMPEST-D, which had been in orbit for three years. Aanother mission investigator and professor of electrical and computer engineering at CSU, V.Chandrasekar said TEMPEST-D was very successful and produced phenomenal storm data.

“The real novelty here is that they are now very small instruments. You know, all of a sudden we can do something for 10% of the price we could do before. -Christian Kummerow, professor of atmospheric science at CSU

Dictionary-sized TEMPEST-D2 collects global weather data relevant for weather forecasting. Kummerow said TEMPEST-D2 examines the microwaves that the earth emits naturally. By taking what the satellite is measuring, they are able to see what was in the atmosphere.

“Most of what this instrument sees is water vapor,” Kummerow said. “It can actually see what the water vapor is on the surface, in the middle atmosphere and at the top of the atmosphere. And all of that is important in forecasting.

Chandrasekar explained how TEMPEST-D2 is a technology demonstration that will do things like monitor the water cycle around the world. According to CSU SOURCE, TEMPEST-D2 is also a “demonstration to show the feasibility of smaller, low-cost, low-power satellite systems” for collecting data for weather forecasting.

“The real novelty here is that these are now very small instruments,” Kummerow said. “You know, all of a sudden we can do something for 10% of the price that we could do before.”

Kummerow talked about the benefits of TEMPEST-D2’s lower price and smaller size and the potential for improved weather forecasting.

“We’ve piloted this before, so we’ve done the same measurements before for 10 times the cost,” Kummerow said. “So now we’re trying to demonstrate that we can do everything we used to do for a lot less. And if it works, then we can start improving forecasting models on a global scale.

Chandrasekar explained how he hopes TEMPEST-D2 will be as successful as TEMPEST-D and last for a few years. Chandrasekar also said he hopes it will attract high-quality undergraduate and graduate students because “ultimately we want to teach students” and “education is an integral part of our curriculum.”

Chandrasekar also spoke about the success of the program and other high-tech instruments, including the CSU-CHILL radar, a weather radar system and the Marine Polarimetric Radar, or SEA-POL, which, according to CSU SOURCEmeasures ocean precipitation.

“In this particular case, I think we want to demonstrate that we can consistently deliver products – high-quality products – so that in the future agencies start looking at instruments like TEMPEST and launching a lot of them,” Kummerow said. “So we want to see 12 flying, maybe 24 flying. It would really improve the weather forecasts we have.

Contact Piper Russell at [email protected] or on Twitter @PiperRussell10.


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