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NEWS | July 16, 2013

Dr. Peter Gaiser Honored with Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for WindSat

By Donna McKinney

Dr. Peter Gaiser, a research physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), has received the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award. He is honored for his outstanding performance and record of achievements over the past 15 years on the NRL WindSat mission, and the leading role he has played in enabling WindSat to be the great success it has been for the Naval Research Laboratory.

WindSat is the first fully polarimetric spaceborne microwave radiometer. In January 2013, it achieved 10 years of on-orbit operations, and it has been a highly visible and successful NRL mission. The WindSat mission's primary objective was to test and fully evaluate the viability of using passive polarimetric radiometry to retrieve the ocean surface wind vector (wind speed and direction). Winds over the ocean affect nearly every aspect of Naval operations including ship routing, carrier operations, and search and rescue. Global ocean winds also provide essential information for short-term weather forecasts and warnings, nowcasting, and climatological and oceanographic studies. For these reasons, the global ocean wind vector had been designated as the number one unfilled meteorological measurement requirement of the Oceanographer of the Navy.

A second objective of WindSat was to serve as a pathfinder for the nation's future weather satellite program to fulfill the global ocean wind vector requirement. In its 10 years in orbit, WindSat has not only successfully demonstrated the measurement of the global ocean wind vector, but has gone far beyond that. Data from WindSat are now ingested, 24-7, into not only the Navy's weather models but also the NOAA models used for civilian weather forecasting, and has been shown to measurably improve weather forecast skill. It is a particularly valuable asset in hurricane forecasting, and is frequently used by the National Hurricane Center in developing their forecasts, which are so important to the health and safety of our citizens. Thus, WindSat is of great benefit to the nation as well as the Navy.

WindSat is a large and complex mission involving a large team and a strong inter-divisional collaboration at NRL between the Naval Center for Space Technology and the Remote Sensing Division, where Dr. Gaiser works. As with any mission of this magnitude, many people have played important roles in the success of WindSat. However, Dr. Gaiser is, and has been since project inception, the intellectual heart and soul of the mission, and the one single person most responsible for the success of WindSat. The mission would simply not have happened if not for the drive, determination, impressive intellectual abilities, organizational skills, and expertise of Dr. Gaiser, said Dr. Richard Bevilacqua, head of the Remote Sensing Division.

Dr. Gaiser is now playing the same critical role in the WindSat Follow-on mission proposal development, and on the Risk Reduction and Analysis of Alternatives activities now underway as part of start-up activities for the next generation DoD Weather Satellite System program.

Dr. Gaiser received his bachelor's degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and his doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, both in electrical engineering. He joined NRL's Remote Sensing Division as a electronics engineer in 1993. He now heads the Remote Sensing Physics Branch at NRL. In 2006, he received a Department of Navy Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award. Dr. Gaiser is an international expert, and the preeminent DoD expert, in passive microwave radiometry, particularly in areas of polarimetric microwave radiometry and space borne microwave radiometers. The WindSat mission has exceeded by large measure any reasonable success expectations and metrics, Dr. Bevilacqua explains, and, because of Dr. Gaiser's critical role in enabling that great success, he is more than deserving of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.

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