A new weather satellite promises a leap forward in forecasting

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A new “eye in the sky” is set to soar into space early Tuesday morning, weather permitting.

This next-generation weather satellite – known as the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 – promises “a leap forward in data collection and quality equivalent to moving from an old flip phone to an iPhone X”, said said meteorologist Ryan Maue of weather.us, a weather company.

Polar satellites like JPSS-1, which orbits the globe from pole to pole 14 times a day, are considered the backbone of the global observing system. According to National Weather Service, 85% of the data going into their weather forecasting models comes from polar-orbiting satellites like the one to be launched on Tuesday.

“We are very excited about the launch,” said Joe Pica, director of the weather service’s office of operations, who added that the spacecraft is designed to last about seven years. Several duplicate satellites are in the works in the coming decades, he said.

The new satellite will also provide critical observations during severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards and is designed to help improve forecasts three to seven days before a severe weather event.

“Using polar satellite data, we were able to provide emergency managers with more accurate forecasts, allowing them to pre-position equipment and resources days before a storm hits,” said Louis Uccellini, weather service director. “JPSS will continue this trend,” he added.

With JPSS-1, the threat of a “satellite gap” due to the aging of the satellite fleet should be dispelled. “For much of a decade, scientists and policy makers have been very concerned about a gap in Earth’s polar-orbiting satellite coverage due to delays in the launch of JPSS-1 and the obvious aging or ‘potential failure of older birds in orbit,’ according to Maue. “We have fortunately avoided any deviations.”

Several instruments on board the satellite will provide detailed observations of temperature, air humidity, ice, snow, fog, forest fires, precipitation and ozone around the world. .

Maue said that without data from polar satellites, “weather forecasts would suffer noticeably, leading to more forecast drops, wayward hurricane tracks, and more difficulty preparing for extreme weather.”

The satellite is scheduled to launch aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 4:47 a.m. ET Tuesday. If the launch is successful, the satellite will be fully functional in about three to six months, Pica said.

The JPSS-1 spacecraft was built by Aeronautical balloon in Boulder, Colorado. The instruments on board were designed by Ball, as well as Raytheon, Harris and Northrop Grumman. Once operational, it will be renamed NOAA-20.

The JPSS-1 was designed and built by Ball Aerospace.
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