Lift off! New weather satellite will help future forecasts

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At 3:47 am CST Saturday morning, the first in a new series of 4 highly advanced NOAA polar orbiting satellites lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) has all new next-generation technology that will help improve the timeliness and accuracy of U.S. weather forecasts 3 to 7 days out.

JPSS-1 is much different than many other satellites orbiting our planet.  Most will orbit in the mid latitudes, and many will have a stationary orbit, far enough away from the Earth that they orbit with the same view of the planet their whole life.  GPS satellites and many other weather satellites are like this, with a constant view of North America.  But the JPSS-1 is orbiting the Earth from Pole to Pole and is not stationary, making 14 passes around the Earth every day.

While orbiting, the satellite will measure dozens of variables that includes atmospheric temperature and moisture, sea surface temperature, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash saturation, CO2 levels, ozone levels, and fire detection just to name a few.  The dozens of measured variables will be used to improve forecast short term weather, climate research and prediction, ocean dynamics research, global vegetation analysis, search and rescue, and many others.  The most important and most used function will be aiding in weather forecasting with all the data getting inputted into numerical forecast models to provide a more accurate representation of possible outcomes in the days ahead.

JPSS-1 will be renamed NOAA 20 once it completes its 3-month test run and is considered operational.  The satellite is designed to operate for 7 years, but most orbiting satellites last much longer than their original operating timeline.  For example, the Hubble was only designed to run for about a decade, and it’s been going strong for close to 30 years.  The current plan is to launch all 4 newly designed satellites in the JPSS series over the next decade.

As an aside and a Fox 9 connection, Keith Marler’s sister was a critical part of this satellite launch as she is the original designer and project manager for this series.  Maybe we can hear more from her about how this whole project was developed in the months ahead.