August 2017

NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) Wins 2017 AIAA/USU SmallSat Conference “Mission of the Year” Award


Left to right, Winner of the 2017 Small Satellite Mission of the Year Award, CYGNSS team members Randy Rose and Don Heihn, from Southwest Research Institute, with Kerri Cahoy, representing the AIAA Small Satellite Technical Committee. Heihn is holding the 2017 trophy, designed and machined by MIT undergraduate Alexander Peraire-Bueno. Photographer: Jacob Given, USU Research Foundation.

NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) won the “Mission of the Year” award at the 31st Annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Utah State University Small Satellite Conference held in Logan, Utah on August 5-10, 2017. This award is presented annually to a mission that has demonstrated a significant improvement in the capability of small satellites. Over 1,200 small satellite enthusiasts voted for this year’s 10 small satellite nominees, which were selected by the experts on the AIAA SmallSat technical committee.
CYGNSS, a constellation of eight microsatellite spacecraft built and operated by the University of Michigan (U-M) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), was launched into low-inclination, low-Earth orbit over the tropics in December 2016. CYGNSS is the first spaceborne NASA Earth Venture-class mission, part of NASA’s Earth Science System Pathfinder program. “It is very rewarding that we were selected by such a large number of peers and colleagues in the smallsat community,” said SwRI’s Randy Rose, who accepted the award on behalf of the CYGNSS team and Principal Investigator Dr. Christopher Ruf. “I think we’ll be seeing a paradigm shift toward more small satellite science constellations like CYGNSS in the future.”

CYGNSS team members Don Heihn (left) and Randy Rose (at podium) accepting the 2017 Small Satellite Mission of the Year Award from Kerri Cahoy, representing the AIAA Small Satellite Technical Committee. Photographer: Jacob Given, USU Research Foundation.

CYGNSS makes frequent measurements of ocean surface winds to monitor the location, intensity, size, and development of tropical cyclones, particularly how they intensify. In recent decades, forecasters have greatly improved models that predict the path of hurricanes, but the ability to predict a storm’s rapidly changing intensity has lagged. CYGNSS will provide the data necessary to enable significant improvement of this key piece of the puzzle.
U-M leads the CYGNSS science investigation. SwRI’s office in Boulder, Colorado, hosts the mission operations center, which commands the spacecraft, collects the telemetry, and transmits the data to the U-M science operations center.
Another NASA small satellite mission came in second place with strong support, the Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN). RAVAN, led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and funded through the NASA In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program, is a 3U CubeSat that has been operational on orbit since November 2016. It uses four small, accurate, radiometers to measure the Earth’s outgoing radiation across the entire spectrum of energy, while demonstrating use of carbon nanotube absorbers and gallium black body phase change cells for calibration to determine the long-term stability of the measurement for climate science.

July 2017

Call for Nominations for the AIAA SmallSat Mission of the Year Award


2016 Winners of the AIAA SmallSat Mission of the Year Award

The AIAA Small Satellite Technical Steering Committee invites nominations for candidates for this year’s fourth annual SmallSat Mission of the Year Award by Friday, August 4th. Please email directly with your nomination (use subject: Mission of the Year 2017), or if you would like to submit recommendations anonymously, please use:<>.
The AIAA SmSTC Small Satellite Mission of the Year Award is awarded annually to the mission that demonstrates a significant improvement in the capability of small satellites. Eligible missions will have launched, established communication, and acquired initial results from on-orbit since January 1, 2016. Eligible missions must have individual satellite wet mass of ~100 kg. “Significant improvement” includes innovations in: spacecraft structural design, scientific instrument development, communications capability, attitude determination and control capability, intersatellite coordination, constellation or cluster management, onboard computing, and others. The panel of judges may allow missions with earlier launch dates that had delayed ISS deployments or extensive on-orbit checkout periods to qualify on a case-by-case basis.
Note that there are fields where you may write in nominees that were not included on the list. The following databases may be useful:



The Technical Steering Committee will use nominations to generate a short list of finalists. The finalists will be notified and contribute to their mission description on the voting page that will be live at the opening of The SmallSatellite Conference (August 5-11, 2017). The SmallSat organizers will send an e-mail to conference attendees starting at the Pre-Conference Workshop with a link to the final voting webpage, asking the community to vote and rank the finalists. Voting will close at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, August 9th, and the winner will be announced at the Conference on Thursday, August 10th.
Your nominations will help us to capture the exciting innovations and achievements of the Small Satellite community, communicating the cutting-edge efforts of recent and ongoing missions and leading to interesting discussions that educate both the experts and the newcomers to the community.