CYGNSS, Others Deliver Now and in Future for Global Weather Forecast
Editor’s Note: This article reproduces the acceptance speeches given by the winners of GPS World’s 2012 Leadership Awards, at the Leadership Dinner in Nashville in September. The Leadership Dinner was sponsored by Lockheed Martin and Deimos Space.
Martin Unwin, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited; Principal GNSS Engineer, winner in the Satellites category. He is a key member of the team that built the GIOVE-A satellite (recently retired) and is now working on the Galileo FOC satellites. He is also recognized for his work on space-borne receivers.
I feel privileged and honored to receive this award from GPS World, and I am truly sorry now that I chose this year not to attend the ION-GNSS conference to receive it!
With respect to the achievements in GIOVE-A and Galileo, I cannot claim this award on behalf of myself, but I will claim it on behalf of the people in Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) who made the projects possible, and to those in the team here who have been working tirelessly to make the payloads and satellites happen. We are of course partnered with others in Europe that have been laboring equally hard, so it has been a true team effort.
With respect to the spaceborne GPS and GNSS activities, my achievements have only been possible thanks to the top-class staff we have in the receivers team, and thanks are also due to the support we have had from the rest of SSTL.
In the 20 years I have been in the company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd has grown from a small university-based department to a major player in the international space scene, and I am immensely proud to have been part of this story.
A Few Words for the Future
Whilst it cannot quite match the early heady days of GPS, I still think nevertheless we are entering an exciting time in the GNSS world. We have two operational systems, and within a few years, we will be seeing two more reaching operational capability. Dual- and even triple-frequency civil signals will soon become operationally available, and some very wide bandwidth signals will be sent down, in particular, by Galileo. There is bound to be a steep learning curve in understanding how to exploit these new signals, with a few crevasses to be negotiated during the climb. But these new signals are bound to lead to an expanded vista of increased accuracy and robustness, and undoubtedly some unexpected destinations.
Taking perhaps the highest perspective, spaceborne remote sensing is a good example that has surprising relevance to the rest of us still on the ground. In this case, GNSS satellites are used as radar sources, and all that is required on a low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellite to change the world is a GNSS receiver. GPS radio-occultation measurements from low-Earth orbit are now already the third most important data source for our global weather forecasts, thanks to the like of the COSMIC and MetOp satellites.
Furthermore, a new constellation of satellites called CYGNSS has recently announced by NASA that will be using ocean-reflected GPS signals to probe inside hurricanes and typhoons, and for the first time will enable the sensing of the wide-scale ocean roughness, leading to improved global wind and wave knowledge. By adding to this spaceborne receiver the ability to accommodate signals from GLONASS, Galileo, and Compass, plus any other available GNSS-type signals, the number of measurements is instantly quadrupled, and a new capability in sensing the atmosphere, waves, and even ice and land is likely to be seen. Meteorologists already view GPS as an emerging utility for weather and climate sensing, but I think this new role for GNSS will be reinforced and expanded into yet another area where GNSS incontrovertibly, if indirectly, makes such a significant difference to our daily lives.
As with many other applications where GNSS has become important or even critical to our modern world, this is, at the same time, both a blessing and a matter for some caution.