NASA was cleaning out the closet and found some parts originally meant for the QuikScat satellite. With the thought of keeping costs down, Scientists pieced together the old parts and made a brand new scatterometer to help measure the wind speed and direction over the worlds oceans. They are not going to make a fancy expensive new satellite for the device, the agency is just going to attach it to the side of the International Space Station, further reducing the costs.
The old QuikScat satellite failed in late 2009, after a 10 year run that was only supposed to last two. Since then there has been a gap in much needed maritime data.
In a press release from NASA:
"ISS-RapidScat will have measurement accuracy similar to QuikScat's and will survey all regions of Earth accessible from the space station's orbit. The instrument will be launched to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. It will be installed on the end of the station's Columbus laboratory as an autonomous payload requiring no interaction by station crew members. It is expected to operate aboard the station for two years."
It continues by saying:
"ISS-RapidScat will take advantage of the space station's unique characteristics to advance understanding of Earth's winds. Current scatterometer orbits pass the same point on Earth at approximately the same time every day. Since the space station's orbit intersects the orbits of each of these satellites about once every hour, ISS-RapidScat can serve as a calibration standard and help scientists stitch together the data from multiple sources into a long-term record."
This is also great news for surf forecasting. The RapidScat sweep covers a larger area than water based buoys and instruments. This helps give better detail when forecasting hurricane swells and winter swells.
The instrument is expected to be functional after September 2013.