Over the last decade NASA launched a series of satellites that offer an unparalleled view of Earth from space. That series, known collectively as NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS), has provided striking new insights into many aspects of Earth, including its clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, and atmosphere. However, as the EOS satellites age, a new generation of Earth-observing satellites are poised to take over.
The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership represents a critical first step in building this next-generation satellite system. Suomi NPP orbits the Earth about 14 times each day and observe nearly the entire surface. The NPP satellite continues key data records that are critical for climate change science.
The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership spacecraft lifted off at 5:48 a.m. EDT on Oct. 28, 2011, to begin its Earth observation mission. The spacecraft was lifted into orbit by a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The launch capped a flawless countdown.
Suomi NPP carries a diverse payload of scientific instruments to monitor the planet. The 4,600-pound (2,100 kilogram) spacecraft, which is about the size of a small school bus, crosses the equator each afternoon at about 1:30 p.m. local time. It carries five key instruments: the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), and Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES).
Scientists will use ATMS, a 22-channel passive microwave radiometer, to create global models of temperature and moisture profiles that meteorologists will enter into weather forecasting models. CrIS, a Michelson interferometer, will monitor characteristics of the atmosphere, such as moisture and pressure that will be used to produce improvements in both short-and-long term weather forecasting. OMPS, a suite of hyperspectral-imaging spectrometers, will measure Earth's ozone levels, particularly near the poles where ozone levels fluctuate the most. VIIRS, a 22-band radiometer similar to the MODIS instrument, will collect visible and infrared views of Earth's dynamic surface processes, such as wildfires, land changes, and ice movement. VIIRS will also measure atmospheric and oceanic properties, including clouds and sea surface temperature. Finally, CERES, a 3-channel radiometer measuring reflected solar radiation, emitted terrestrial radiation, and total radiation, will monitor the natural and anthropogenic effects on the Earth's total thermal radiation budget.