That tool is a mission called the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate-2, or COSMIC-2, a suite of six satellites being developed under the aegis of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The mission will launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on Monday (June 24) during a launch window that opens at 11:30 p.m. EDT (0330 June 25 GMT).
"It really allows us to enhance our predictive capabilities for hurricane systems," Elsayed Talaat, director of the Office of Projects, Planning and Analysis for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, said during a media call. "We want to be able to forecast these systems more accurately to be able to better mitigate the severe impact that storms like Harvey, Maria, Irma, Florence and Michael have had on the U.S. in the past two years alone."
The six COSMIC-2 satellites are each about the size of a kitchen stove and cost NOAA a total of about $75 million, Talaat said. (The U.S. Air Force and Taiwan are partners on the project as well.) Once the satellites launch, the operations team will spend about seven months testing them before the mission officially becomes active.
But once it does, COSMIC-2 will offer meteorologists data about air temperature, pressure and humidity in the equatorial region of Earth — precisely where hurricanes and tropical storm systems form. The new mission will provide particularly detailed information about how those characteristics change at different altitudes.