NASA’s NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite, will blast off from Vendenberg Air Force Base, Friday, Oct 28. 2011. Naturally, the only reason anyone would put a sophisticated instrument like this into orbit is to improve the fidelity of snowfall forecast modeling for local skicentric meteorologists. (The best: tahoeweatherdiscussion.com)
Even so, the new satellite will have a few other data customers as well.
NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) operates the satellites and manages the processing and distribution of the millions of bits of data and images theses satellites produce daily. The primary customer is NOAA’s National Weather Service, which uses satellite data to create forecasts for the public, television, radio, and weather advisory services. Satellite information is also shared with various Federal agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Defense, and Transportation; with other countries, such as Japan, India, and Russia, and members of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Kingdom Meteorological Office; and with the private sector.
NOAA Satelite Information Service
The NPP satellite will be packed into the nose of a Delta II rocket and launched into orbit around the earth.
The NPP Satellite carries significant advances in instrumentation.
Five primary sensors:
- Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS)
- Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS)
- Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES)
- Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS); and the
- Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS)
In addition to its core mission of weather and climate observations, the NPP satellite will be able to track ash plumes from volcanic eruptions, help emergency responders fight wildfires, monitor changes in arctic sea ice, monitor changes in Ozone levels, track changes in the abundance and productivity of phytoplankton, monitor water quality, and aid bloggers in forecasting powder days.
(NPP program description)
In general, there are two types of satellites. Those that orbit around the Earth’s poles in a longitudinal path (polar-orbit), and those that orbit around the equator. (The NPP Satellite will follow a polar-orbit)
Polar-orbiting satellites allow the earth to rotate beneath them while they do laps, imaging sectional slices of the earth.
Satellites orbiting on an equatorial path do so at much higher altitudes, usually matching the sidereal rotation of the Earth, allowing them to remain focused on one position below. These are known as geostationary orbits. Satellites at such an altitude have a full disc view of the planet. A satellite may also travel a non-equatorial geosynchronous path.
(Example of a polar orbit similar to that of the NPP Satellite)
At an altitude of 512 miles high, the NPP satellite will orbit the earth once every 102 minutes. Think about that. If you’re 512 miles up you’ve got a circumnavigational flight path with a radius of ≈4471 mi. Which gives you a distance per Earth lap of 28,092 miles.
C = 2πr = 2(3.14)(4471 mi) = 28,092 miles
If you cover that in 102 minutes you get 28,092 mi/102 min = 275 miles per minute or 16,525 mph! That’s fast!
(Delta II Rocket launch from Cape Canaveral)
The “N” in NPP stands for NPOESS. NPOESS stands for “National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System.” The NPOESS was intended as a replacement for both the DOD’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and the NOAA Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) series.
The NPP or (NPOESS Preparatory Project) program, which was intended to bridge the gap between old and new satellite monitoring systems, was originally scheduled to launch back in 2005. The NPP program encountered a number of problems and was reviewed (postponed). The new date for launch is now this Friday, Oct. 28th, just in time for it to serve its function as a transitional data source in preparation for the launch of the first NPOESS satellite “C1” or “Charlie 1” sometime in 2013.
However, the White House announced on February 1, 2010 that the NPOESS satellite partnership was to be dissolved. (Yes, this is all accurate, don’t ask me why they kept the acronym “NPP” for the satellite launching this Friday). Instead, two separate lines of polar-orbiting satellites to serve military and civilian users are being pursued.
- The NOAA/NASA portion is called the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).
- The Defense department’s portion is called DWSS (Defense Weather Satellite System)
…I know right? WTF!?