Early on Friday morning the night sky was brightened around Vandenberg Air Force Base by the launch of a Delta II rocket carrying the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project, or NPP, satellite into space. This marks the start of the next generation of space-based weather and climate observations.
The satellite carries five science instruments for making various measurements of the Earth and its atmosphere. Four of the instruments are brand new, and one continues a mission cataloging our planet’s climactic changes.
- Visible Infrared Image Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) – Advanced visible and infrared imaging and radiometric capabilities.
- Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) – Observes the Earth’s atmosphere across 22 channels in the microwave spectrum. These observations provide information on the atmosphere’s tempterature and moisture profile.
- Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) – Observes the Earth’s atmosphere across 1305 infrared channels using a Fourier Transform Spectrograph. This instrument also provides information on the atmosphere’s temperature and moisture profile in concert with ATMS.
- Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite (OMPS) – Extends the research and assesment of ozone in the atmosphere.
- Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) – A three channel radiometer that observes how much solar energy the Earth reflects away and also how much thermal radiation the Earth itself emits. This is the sixth time the CERES instrument has been built and flown and will continue the data record.
From the NASA press release:
NPP will allow scientists to extend the continuous satellite record needed to detect and quantify global environmental changes.
“The measurements from NPP will benefit science and society for many years to come,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “NPP will help improve weather forecasts, enable unique scientific insights, and allow more accurate global environmental predictions. I’m confident that the strong partnerships forged in the NPP program between NASA and NOAA, industry, and the research and applications communities will ensure the success of the mission.”
The satellite will be operated from the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. NASA will operate NPP for the first three months after launch while the satellite and instrument are checked out. NPP operations will then be turned over to NOAA and the JPSS program for the remainder of the mission.
Once this satellite is checked out and fully operational you will benefit directly from the data it is collecting. Weather forecasting relies heavily on the information a satellite such as NPP collects. The launch of NPP marks the addition of a brand new set of eyes keeping watch on our spaceship Earth.