Spaceflight Insider

NOAA’s next-generation weather satellite JPSS-1 set to launch Tuesday

JPSS-1 spacecraft in Earth orbit

This illustration depicts the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft designed to provide forecasters with crucial environmental science data to provide a better understanding of changes in the Earth’s weather, oceans, and climate. Image & Caption Credit: Ball Aerospace / NASA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is eagerly anticipating the launch of the first satellite in the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). JPSS-1 is the newest and most advanced weather satellite to date using many of the same instruments on the Suomi NPP satellite launched on October 28, 2011.

The sophisticated satellite instrumentation will provide a six-time increased global observation with a 1214-foot (370-meter) resolution including oversample technology and reduced degradation as well as a Day-Night Band which is capable of seeing city lights at night. This technology, which is also on Suomi NPP, aided in weather information gathering after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017.

The JPSS-1 satellite

JPSS-1 undergoing EMI check

The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft is checked out on Oct. 8, 2015, at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. The Launch Configuration Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) measures the electromagnetic emissions and subjects it to expected electromagnetic radiation that the satellite would experience at the launch site. (Click to enlarge) Photo & Caption Credit: Ball Aerospace / NASA

JPSS-1 is a $1.6 billion spacecraft that will be placed into a polar orbit 512 miles (824 kilometers) above the surface of the Earth to monitor and report a wide range of environmental information. The satellite will have the ability to provide scientists, researchers, and meteorologists with the data necessary to predict severe weather up to seven days ahead of time.

Suomi NPP and JPSS-1 will have the same orbit, with JPSS-1 following Suomi NPP by about 50 minutes. This polar orbit will allow global coverage by the satellites twice every 24 hours, with 14 orbits per day.

When JPSS-1 reaches its planned orbit, it will spend approximately three months in a calibration and test phase. Once this is completed, it will be renamed NOAA-20 and is expected to have a lifetime of at least seven years.

JPSS-1’s instruments will analyze the full spectrum of reflected sunlight and thermal energy from the Earth to track and monitor various aspects of the weather and climate – including water vapor, ozone, clouds, rainfall, snow and ice cover, and temperatures of the ocean and land surfaces as well as the atmosphere.

Because of its ability to see through cloud cover, JPSS-1 can map precipitation, ice and snow coverage, as well as land surface humidity and temperature, even beneath storms allowing for more accurate advanced warning of such things as hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards. It should also be able to aid in assessing hazards such as droughts, forest fires, poor air quality, and the levels of coastal waters.

JPSS-1’s suite of instruments

The five instrument suites on JPSS-1 are the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), and Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES).

JPSS-1’s mission is to continue to provide a gap-less recording and monitoring of global ozone concentration levels as part of the U.S.’ treaty obligation in the Montreal Protocol. Additionally, the satellite’s OMPS will have the ability to not only track total column and vertical profile of ozone from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, but also it will be able to track UV radiation to aid in advising the public. Furthermore, it will monitor the sulfur dioxide and ash that result from volcanic eruptions to help provide aircraft safety warnings.

The ATMS is the next generation of cross-track sounders that will provide a wealth of data and global observational information of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere using microwaves. Because long-wave microwave radiation can penetrate through cloud cover, the instrument can provide all-weather data and near-term prediction of weather for farming, commercial and defense aircraft flight planning, as well as ocean-going civilian and defense ships. It will also provide tracking of weather conditions and can be used to produce advanced weather forecast five to seven days out for events such as hurricanes.

JPSS-1 on test stand

JPSS-1 on test stand. Photo Credit: Ball Aerospace

The CrIS instrument is the first in a series of newly advanced sounders that will make more detailed, accurate records of atmospheric temperature and moisture levels, which should allow for superior weather forecasting models.

The combination of CrIS and ATMS data collection will produce global high-resolution 3-D maps of atmospheric temperature, pressure and moisture profiles for weather forecasting, continental transportation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, and will aid in our understanding of climate phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña. It will also provide critical information on Earth’s hydrologic cycle – the circular process of water vapor, clouds, and precipitation.

Delta-II / JPSS-1 preparation at SLC-2

On April 11, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, a United Launch Alliance Delta II second stage is hoisted into the gantry at Space Launch Complex 2. It will be mounted atop the first stage of the rocket, seen on the left, as preparations continue for the launch of the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1. (Click to enlarge) Photo & Caption Credit: Randy Beaudoin / NASA

The VIIRS takes global visible and infrared observational data of both the surface of the land, sea, and atmosphere at extremely high temporal resolution parameters.

In addition to detecting the global moisture and temperature levels, JPSS-1’s CERES instrument will sense the heat given off by both the solar-reflective and Earth-emitted radiation from the full depth of the atmosphere (surface of the Earth to the thermosphere).

Cloud properties can be determined using simultaneous data collection and measurements from other instruments such as VIIRS to gain a better understanding of the role that clouds play in the energy cycle as well as in global climate change.

The launch

The NOAA satellite, which will be launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket, is scheduled to launch this Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 a.m. EST / 09:47 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Delta II will be in the “7920” configuration: “7” denotes the 7000 series, utilizing an RS-27A engine in the first stage; “9” is the number of solid rocket (GEM-40) boosters; “2” denotes the second stage with an AJ10 engine; “0” denotes no third stage.

The Delta II stands 125–128 feet (38.2–39 meters) in height (depending on the fairing) and has a core diameter of about 8 feet (2.44 meters); it has a launch mass of approximately 152–232 metric tons.

The satellite, which measures 14.8 feet (4.5 meters) long and weighs 5,060 pounds (2,295 kilograms), won’t be alone. The Delta II will also be carrying five university CubeSats that will be deployed in Earth orbit before the release of JPSS-1 into its final orbit.

The Delta II rocket has been the workhorse of ULA since it was first launched in February 1989. This rocket will be the penultimate Delta II with the final Delta II launch planned for the ICESat-2 in 2018.

Video courtesy of United launch Alliance



A native of the Greater Los Angeles area, Ocean McIntyre's writing is focused primarily on science (STEM and STEAM) education and public outreach. McIntyre is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador as well as holding memberships with The Planetary Society, Los Angeles Astronomical Society, and is a founding member of McIntyre is currently studying astrophysics and planetary science with additional interests in astrobiology, cosmology and directed energy propulsion technology. With SpaceFlight Insider seeking to expand the amount of science articles it produces, McIntyre was a welcomed addition to our growing team.

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