A recent major milestone to develop the next-generation of polar-orbiting satellites was reached when operational control of America’s newest environmental satellite was transitioned to NOAA. These satellites are critical to providing advanced warning for severe weather including tornado outbreaks, heavy snowfall, hurricanes, heat waves, floods, and wildfires
Data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite will continue to strengthen NOAA’s ability to predict severe weather days in advance. Suomi NPP data are also used to generate dozens of environmental data products, including measurements of clouds, vegetation, ocean color, and land and sea surface temperatures.
Artist rendering of Suomi NPP (Credit NOAA)
The Suomi NPP mission is a bridge between the current fleet of polar-orbiting satellites and NOAA’s upcoming Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), scheduled to launch in 2017. Suomi NPP is operating new, sophisticated Earth-observing instruments that NOAA is using to support improved weather forecasts.
“The future is now for NOAA satellites,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, deputy administrator and acting chief scientist at NOAA. “The handover marks the dawn of the JPSS era. It also signals the effective teamwork between NOAA and NASA to launch and operate environmental satellites has worked for more than 40 years and will last well into the future.”
“Satellites like Suomi NPP are critical to the National Weather Service mission and improved decision support services,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “These polar satellites provide an important dataset for the global earth observing system and will lead to improved forecasts out to three days in the future and beyond.”
Suomi NPP was launched on October 28, 2011. In March 2012, Suomi NPP was commissioned and operations were transferred from the NASA Suomi NPP project to the NASA/NOAA JPSS program. Since that time, the Suomi NPP flight and ground teams at the JPSS program have worked to ensure the spacecraft, instruments and data products were operating successfully. NOAA began using data from one of the Suomi NPP instruments – the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder — on May 22, 2012, seven months after launch, nearly three times faster than previous missions.
Suomi NPP observes any given point on the Earth’s surface twice a day-once in daylight and once at night. It circles the planet in a north-south motion between the poles about 14 times a day, 512 miles above the surface. Once an orbit is complete, Suomi NPP sends its data to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway. The data is then routed to the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. where it is processed and distributed. NOAA’s NWS incorporates the data into its weather prediction models that help generate medium-to-long range forecasts. The data is also available to users around the world via direct broadcast.
Vanessa Griffin, director of NOAA’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations said, “Our NOAA operations team is well trained, experienced and excited about taking over operations of the Suomi NPP satellite. We worked closely with the JPSS program to ensure the transition was smooth and transparent for our operational customers.”