NOAA, NASA Select Contractor for Satellite-Based Lightning Detection Instrument

December 19, 2007

Multiple cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud lightning strokes during night-time.

+ High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA and NASA today announced Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Palo Alto, Calif., has been selected for a $96.7 million (including options) contract award to design and develop a new instrument on the next generation of weather satellites that will detect patterns in lightning flashes that give forecasters an early indicator of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, the instrument will monitor all lightning flashes occurring anytime and anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, including the United States. It will fly on NOAA's next geostationary satellite series known as GOES-R first set to launch in December 2014.

Lightning is the second highest storm-related killer in the United States and causes $4 to $5 billion in losses each year in the civilian sector. Lightning costs about $2 billion annually in airline operating expenses and passenger delays and are a frequent cause of wildfires.

“Lightning is the most dangerous and frequent weather hazard people face in this country,” said Joseph Schaefer, director of NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “Forecasters look forward to the new instrument providing more real-time information about lightning associated with thunderstorms. This will improve the ability to issue forecasts and warnings to help keep the public safe.”

Today’s ground-based national lightning detection networks are designed to locate mostly cloud-to-ground lightning – a small fraction of the total lightning. From space, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper will provide continuous and near-uniform coverage of total lightning activity – discharges within the clouds and strikes from the clouds to the ground – across the United States, the adjacent oceans – from New Zealand to the west coast of Africa.

The contractor will work on GLM at its facility in Palo Alto, Calif. In addition to the instrument, the contractor will provide post-delivery support for the system. When launched, the GOES-R series will upgrade existing weather and environmental monitoring capabilities, and introduce a new era for U.S. geostationary remote sensing.

NOAA funds, manages and will operate the GOES-R program. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the acquisition of GOES-R instruments for NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.