The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Search Google Appliance


Alumnus Serves as PI on Historic NASA Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System

Christopher Ruf

Christopher Ruf



Alumnus Christopher Ruf (ECE Ph.D. '87), now a Professor of Atmospheric Science and of Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is the Principal Investigator of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which was launched from an aircraft over the ocean near the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 15. Professor Ruf’s critical position on this historic NASA mission is yet more proof that UMass Amherst is a nationally recognized leader in microwave remote sensing. CYGNSS on »

CYGNSS is designed to make frequent and accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the lifecycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. "CYGNSS will provide us with detailed measurements of hurricane wind speeds, an important indicator of a storm's intensity," said Ruf after the launch. "Ultimately, the measurements from this mission will help improve hurricane track and intensity forecasts."

NASA confirmed on December 16 that all eight spacecraft of its latest Earth science mission are in good shape. CYGNSS will provide scientists with advanced technology to see inside tropical storms and hurricanes as never before. The CYGNSS constellation consists of eight microsatellite observatories that will measure surface winds in and near a hurricane's inner core, including regions beneath the eyewall and intense inner rain bands that previously could not be measured from space. All this can be done by measuring reflections from the sea surface of the signals transmitted by global positioning satellites.

CYGNSS launched into orbit aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The rocket was dropped and launched over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida, from Orbital's Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

"The launch of CYGNSS is a first for NASA and for the scientific community," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "As the first orbital mission in our Earth Venture program, CYGNSS will make unprecedented measurements in the most violent, dynamic, and important portions of tropical storms and hurricanes."

Ruf has worked for NASA for several decades, accumulating numerous awards and accomplishments. Among other research for NASA, Ruf served as an instrument scientist on the NASA TOPEX Microwave Radiometer, the Principal Investigator on the Calibration/validation of US Navy GEOSAT Follow-On Water Vapor Radiometer, and a science team member on other radiometers.

Among many other awards and honors, Ruf has earned multiple NASA Certificates of Recognition and Group Achievement Awards. In addition, he was elected an IEEE Fellow in 2001. He earned the 2014 IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society Outstanding Service Award and the 2006 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium Prize Paper Award. In 1999, he received the IEEE Judith A. Resnik Technical Field Award for contributions to the absolute calibration of space-borne microwave radiometers. Furthermore, in 1997, he won the IEEE Transactions on Geoscience & Remote Sensing Prize Paper Award for retrieval of tropospheric water vapor scale height from horizontal turbulence. (January 2017)