To improve weather forecasting, the first of a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites will fly into space aboard a Delta II rocket that will be launched early Friday from Vandenberg Air Base.
The launch of the $1.6 billion mission marks the start of the country’s newest series of weather satellites to collect data while crossing the equator 14 times a day.
The satellite, a collaborative effort between the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Nasawas built by Aeronautical balloon of Boulder, Colorado.
“JPSS, which stands for Joint Polar Satellite Systemwill bring the latest and greatest technology ever used by NOAA to capture more accurate and timely observations of the Earth’s atmosphere, land and waters, which has improved life-saving weather forecasting for the NOAA seven days away,” said Ajay Mehta, Acting Deputy Director of Systems, NOAA Satellite and Information Service.
Louis Ucellinidirector of the National Weather Servicesaid satellites like JPSS-1 provide emergency officials with extended forecasts so they can make critical decisions about evacuations or crew deployment ahead of hurricanes or other weather crises.
“The JPSS program is a much-needed step forward in our efforts to build a weather-ready nation over the next 20 years,” he said. “By taking our polar observing capabilities to the next level, we will enable policy makers, emergency managers and the public to prepare and pre-position the resources needed to save lives and protect property.”
Accurate seven-day forecasts require robust, high-quality global measurements of the atmosphere for the weather forecasting system, Uccellini added.
“Polar satellites are the only way to get measurements of global temperature and humidity, and they are the backbone of the global observing system that we use to make these predictions of extreme events,” said he declared.
In total, NOAA is planning four JPSS satellites that will collect critical weather and environmental data that should be used until 2038, said Greg Mandt, director of the Joint Polar Satellite System.
To provide the observations, JPSS carries five highly sophisticated instruments, he added.
This mission follows the 2011 launch of the satellite known as Suomi Nuclear Power Plant, precursor to the new series of spacecraft. Designed as a research mission to test new technologies, this satellite was actually commissioned to provide key weather data after another satellite failed.
“We are ready for JPSS and are excited about what this satellite will mean to improve our weather forecasting, especially for extreme events,” Uccellini said.
After reaching orbit 512 miles above Earth, JPSS-1 will be renamed NOAA-20.
Future satellites planned for the JPSS constellation include JPSS-2, scheduled for launch in 2021, JPSS-3 in 2026, and JPSS-4 in 2031.
For decades, the 22-square-mile Vandenberg Air Force Base was the launch site for other polar-orbiting satellites to collect weather and environmental data.
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This story was originally published November 6, 2017 10:15 a.m.