June 7, 2011
Artist rendering of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).
Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)
The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program, which will deliver the next-generation of polar-orbiting satellites, reached a key milestone with the installation of the first antenna that will receive data from the spacecraft. A team from Raytheon Company recently installed the antenna receptor at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
The receptor is the first to be installed around the world as part of the JPSS Common Ground System. It is designed to capture up to five times more environmental data at speeds four times faster than current polar-orbiting satellites.
JPSS will maintain continuity of critical global data collected from polar orbits by NOAA’s polar satellite program, which for more than 40 years has provided these observations which are critical for life-saving weather forecasts and environmental monitoring. However, NOAA officials warned of the looming gap in polar satellite coverage to spot developing storms if funding for JPSS is not secured.
“Having more data available much faster will strengthen NOAA’s ability to monitor atmospheric triggers that eventually lead to a tornado outbreak, hurricane, snow storm, wildfire or flood, so we are all prepared before severe weather strikes,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA’s assistant secretary for environmental observation and protection.
She added that the budget shortfalls in the JPSS program could lead to a loss of U.S. polar-orbiting weather satellite coverage beginning in 2016-17, at the end of life for the NASA National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP). NPP is scheduled for launch October 25.
“If JPSS is not in place at the end of NPP’s life, there will be a significant decline in the accuracy of NOAA weather forecasts, including hurricane track prediction two days out,” Sullivan said. “It’s absolutely critical that we have continuous polar satellite coverage.”
A total of two receptors and associated processing equipment planned for McMurdo Station will support JPSS and the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and will allow them to provide faster weather products for near-term forecasting.
NASA is developing JPSS for NOAA, which will operate the satellites and distribute their data to key users, including NOAA’s National Weather Service. Currently, the launch of the first satellite in the JPSS program is scheduled for 2017.
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