Spaceflight Insider

United Launch Alliance tapped to launch Joint Polar Satellite System-2

Artist's depiction of JPSS-2 satellite on orbit. Image Credit: Orbital ATK

Artist’s depiction of JPSS-2 satellite on orbit. Image Credit: Orbital ATK

NASA has selected a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket to send the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) spacecraft to orbit on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

JPSS-2 costs an estimated $170.6 million, which includes the cost of the launch vehicle as well as other mission-related services. It is slated to fly from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 3E (East) in 2021.

In terms of JPSS, the spacecraft is the product of an inter-agency effort to produce next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellites.

When all is said and done, some five satellites will comprise the JPSS-2 constellation. They will monitor a wide array of conditions which, according to a news release issued by NASA, will include the following:

[…] atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic conditions, including sea and land surface temperatures, vegetation, clouds, rainfall, snow and ice cover, fire locations and smoke plumes, atmospheric temperature, water vapor and ozone.

As is the case with most weather satellites, JPSS will work to provide improved forecasts of severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards. It is hoped these predictions will come days in advance.

While particularly focused along the coasts, JPSS will work to determine other environmental hazards (droughts, forest fires, etc.) that can impact air quality.

The space agency’s Launch Services Program is based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, while the JPSS Flight Project is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center located in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate meanwhile works with NOAA based out of Washington, D.C.

Seradata Space Intelligence noted that Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK has been contracted to produce the JPSS-2 satellite, with the production of two more satellites also being a possibility.




Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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