JPSS-1 Now Scheduled for Launch in November

JPSS-1 Now Scheduled for Launch in November

The first of NOAA’s new generation of polar orbiting weather satellites, JPSS-1, is now scheduled for launch on November 10, 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.   The launch has been delayed several times and most recently had been scheduled for this month.

The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is the successor to the ill-fated NOAA-DOD-NASA National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program.  Historically, the United States had separate weather satellite programs for the civilian and military sectors operated by NOAA and DOD respectively.  In 1994, as part of its effort to streamline government, the Clinton Administration decided to merge the two programs with NASA participating in a technology development role.  Named NPOESS,  the Obama Administration terminated it in 2010 after years of cost overruns and schedule delays and directed NOAA and DOD to revert to separate systems.

NOAA developed JPSS as its successor to NPOESS.  The original cost for the program was $12.9 billion, of which approximately $4 billion was NOAA’s sunk costs in NPOESS.  Congress balked at the cost and NOAA restructured the program, lowering the cost to $11.3 billion by reducing the number of JPSS satellites from four to two and transferring responsibility for some of the sensors to NASA.  The other two satellites were placed into a separate NOAA program line, currently called Polar Follow On, which remains controversial. President Trump’s FY2018 budget request would sharply cut funding for PFO and the House and Senate appropriations committees have taken opposite stances on it.

JPSS-1 spacecraft. Photo credit: NOAA press release.

JPSS-1 and -2 are fully funded in the FY2018 budget request, however, and both the House and Senate committees support it.   JPSS-1 now is scheduled for launch on November 10, 2017 at 1:47 am Pacific Time (4:47 am Eastern) on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.  JPSS-2 is expected to be launched in 2021.

The delay for JPSS-1 from September to November was explained in a NOAA press release as providing extra time for engineers to complete testing of the spacecraft and electronics as well as the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), one of the five instruments on JPSS-1.   ATMS and the Cloud and Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments were built by Northrop Grumman.  Harris built the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS).  Raytheon built the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and the common ground system.  Ball Aerospace designed and built the spacecraft as well as the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS).  NASA serves as the acquisition agent for all NOAA spacecraft and launches.

NOAA operates complementary constellations of weather satellites in polar orbits that circle the poles, providing data about the entire globe, and geostationary orbits above the equator that provide detailed coverage of tropical regions where hurricanes form.  NOAA also recently launched the first of its newest generation of geostationary weather satellites, GOES-R (renamed GOES-16 once it was in orbit).

NOAA’s polar orbiting constellation is aging.  The last of its legacy satellites, NOAA-19, was launched in 2009.   Concerned that NOAA-19 might fail before JPSS-1 was launched, NOAA seconded an experimental NASA satellite, Suomi-NPP, to serve as an operational weather satellite.  It was launched in 2011.  Both are still operating, although the performance of one of the NOAA-19 instruments (High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder) is degraded.

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