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.
The Suomi NPP space segment is comprised of six elements. The spacecraft, the five instrument/sensor payloads, and the associated ground support equipment and simulators.
The spacecraft is a member of the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) family of spacecraft designed for cost-effective, remote sensing applications. Its proven design accommodates a wide range of payloads, including optical applications with sub-meter resolutions and synthetic aperture radar.
The NPP spacecraft bus is the eighth of 11 spacecraft built by Ball Aerospace on the same BCP 2000 core architecture. In all, this architecture has more than 50 years of successful on-orbit operations. The BCP 2000 was designed to accommodate a wide variety of Earth-observing payloads that require precision pointing control, flexible high-data throughput and downlinks, and controlled re-entry. The spacecraft has a 7-year design life, with a five-year 5-year mission life.
Ball Aerospace designed and built the spacecraft bus, under contract to Goddard Space Flight Center, and was responsible for integrating the instruments and for performing satellite-level testing and launch support.
The five instruments manifested for flight on the Suomi NPP spacecraft trace their heritage to instruments on NASA's Terra, Aqua and Aura missions, on NOAA's Polar Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) spacecraft, and on DOD's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).
| The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), a cross-track scanner with 22 channels, provides sounding observations needed to retrieve profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture for civilian operational weather forecasting as well as continuity of these measurements for climate monitoring purposes.
+ Go to the ATMS page
| VIIRS, a scanning radiometer, collects visible and infrared imagery and radiometric measurements of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans. VIIRS data is used to measure cloud and aerosol properties, ocean color, sea and land surface temperature, ice motion and temperature, fires, and Earth's albedo. Climatologists use VIIRS data to improve our understanding of global climate change.
+ Go to the VIIRS page
| The Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), a Fourier transform spectrometer with 1305 spectral channels, will produce high-resolution, three-dimensional temperature, pressure, and moisture profiles. These profiles will be used to enhance weather forecasting models, and they will facilitate both short- and long-term weather forecasting.
+ Go to the CRIS page
| Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS), an advanced suite of two hyper spectral instruments, extends the 25-plus year total-ozone and ozone-profile records. These records are used by ozone-assessment researchers and policy makers to track the health of the ozone layer. The improved vertical resolution of OMPS data products allows for better testing and monitoring of the complex chemistry involved in ozone destruction near the troposphere.
+ Go to the OMPS page
| Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES), a three-channel radiometer, measures both solar-reflected and Earth-emitted radiation from the top of the atmosphere to the surface. It also determines cloud properties including the amount, height, thickness, particle size, and phase of clouds using simultaneous measurements by other instruments.
+ Go to the CERES page
The spacecraft directly transmits stored mission sensor data to a receiving station in Svalbard, Norway, and will also provide continuous direct broadcast of real-time sensor data. The mission data will be routed on communications networks from Svalbard to the continental United States.
Data from Suomi NPP will be distributed to meteorologists at NOAA and the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as to climate researchers around the globe. Many of these measurements continue long-term climate data records from existing Earth-observing missions such as Aqua, Terra and Aura.
The Suomi NPP mission will continue critical weather and climate measurements and reduce risk for the next generation meteorological satellite system, by flying a suite of new, advanced-technology remote sensing instruments. The measurements taken provides critical data to support operational weather forecasting, as well as long-term climate research.