With NPP Launched, Wait for JPSS Begins

[Satellite TODAY Insider 10-31-11] United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully launched NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite on a Delta 2 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, ULA confirmed Oct. 28.
   Once in orbit, the NPP polar-orbiting satellite will provide enhanced weather data to NOAA scientists for use in developing severe weather forecasts days in advance. NASA will use NPP as a research mission. The spacecraft features five new instruments that were designed to collect more detailed information about Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans.
   NPP will orbit Earth every 102 minutes, monitoring atmospheric conditions at an altitude of 512 miles above the surface. NOAA said the first of the NPP data would become available in about 90 days and begin replacing data from the NOAA-19 satellite in the afternoon as it passes over the United States during full daylight hours.
   “The need for improved data from NPP and the next-generation satellite system under development by NASA and NOAA has never been greater. They will enhance our ability to alert the public with as much lead time as possible,” NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said in a statement. “This year has been one for the record books for severe weather.”
   NPP also aims to connect NOAA’s current polar-orbiting satellites to the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which is scheduled for launch in late 2016. NPP will test how new instruments perform before they are integrated with the JPSS satellites.
   The launch of JPSS has been delayed several times during the past few years due to funding issues. Lubchenco said that the delays would likely create a data gap between the time NPP begins to show signs of wear and the time JPSS is successfully placed into orbit. “The length of that gap depends on future funding and the agency remains optimistic that our current year Congressional support will carry over into a final appropriation and out-year funding,” she said.
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