First Data From NASA’s NPP Satellite

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Section of NPP VIIRS First ImageSection of NPP VIIRS First Image

Small, full resolution, section of the first NPP VIIRS image showing northern Florida. (Image: NASA)

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite launched last month in a brilliant pre-dawn display from the Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Delta II rocket. I first mentioned NPP just before Hurricane Irene in a post about the weather satellites that are keeping watch on the Earth. It is the first satellite in the next generation fleet of weather satellites being built by NASA for NOAA. Data has been released now from the Raytheon built Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and the Northrop-Grumman built Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS).

On November 8th, ATMS acquired its first data, producing a global map of atmospheric water vapor. From the NASA press release about the ATMS data:

NPP ATMS Water Vapor DataNPP ATMS Water Vapor Data

Global map of water vapor captured by the ATMS instrument on NPP. (Image: NASA)

A passive microwave radiometer, the ATMS instrument can collect data even when it is cloudy. Paired with the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), also aboard NPP, they will produce global sets of high-resolution temperature and moisture profiles that are used for forecasting and studying weather.

“NPP is rock solid,” stated Ken Schwer, NPP project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “The satellite has performed extremely well during the checkout maneuvers and is in the expert hands of the mission operations team at NSOF.”

On November 21st, the VIIRS instrument collected its first image, an amazing view on the US east coast. From the NASA press release about the VIIRS data:

“This image is a next step forward in the success of VIIRS and the NPP mission,” said James Gleason, NPP project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

VIIRS will collect radiometric imagery in visible and infrared wavelengths of the Earth’s land, atmosphere, and oceans. By far the largest instrument onboard NPP, VIIRS weighs about 556 pounds (252 kilograms). Its data, collected from 22 channels across the electromagnetic spectrum, will be used to observe the Earth’s surface including fires, ice, ocean color, vegetation, clouds, and land and sea surface temperatures.

Raytheon, the company that built VIIRS has also produced a very cool video that is worth checking out that lets you see how photons get to the three detectors on VIIRS. There are three other instrument on NPP, CrIS, OMPS, and CERES, that are still undergoing checkout. The full suite, combined with the capabilities of other polar orbiting weather satellites and geostationary weather satellites, provides an amazing and comprehensive view of the Earth’s atmospheric conditions and climatic trends.

NPP is just the first of a new fleet of weather satellites being produced by NASA for NOAA under the Joint Polar Satellite System, or JPSS, program. As the capabilites and data generated by these satellites improves, our understanding of our atmosphere and climate also increases. Our next generation of geeklings will have an amazing view of our world. Maybe some of this data will inspire some of our geeklings to become the next generation of meterologists or climate scientists!

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