All Instruments Now Integrated With JPSS-1 Spacecraft

Ball Aerospace technicians lower the ATMS instrument onto the JPSS-1 spacecraft. Image Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

Ball Aerospace technicians lower the ATMS instrument onto the JPSS-1 spacecraft. Image Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

February 15, 2016 – Building a weather satellite is no easy task. It takes several years of design and engineering to piece all of the instruments together and prepare a satellite for launch.

As NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) satellite moves towards its early 2017 launch date, the fifth and final instrument, the ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder), an instrument critical to forecasting weather three to seven days in advance, has been integrated with the satellite.

“This marks a very significant milestone for the JPSS program,” said Harry Cikanek, JPSS Director. “Soon, the spacecraft will be prepared for the environmental testing phase which is the next step toward launch.”

How does it work?

Historically, microwave sounders like ATMS have had the greatest impact on forecast accuracy. The instrument works by collecting microwave radiation from the Earth’s atmosphere and surface day and night, even through thick clouds.

This is particularly valuable for forecasters because it will allow them to “see” inside and below clouds, and it can be used to produce images inside hurricanes and other storms. ATMS measurements also provide rainfall rates and snow and ice information.

The image shows the ATMS channel 18 data, which measures water vapor in the lower atmosphere. Tropical Storm Sean is visible in the data, as the patch of blue, in the Atlantic off the coast of the Southeastern United States. Image Credit: NOAA

The image shows the ATMS channel 18 data, which measures water vapor in the lower atmosphere. Tropical Storm Sean is visible in the data, as the patch of blue, in the Atlantic off the coast of the Southeastern United States. Image Credit: NOAA

Compared with NOAA’s legacy microwave sounders, ATMS offers more channels and better resolution and collects a wider swath of data.

ATMS will be operating in tandem with CrIS (Cross-track Infrared Sounder) aboard the JPSS-1 satellite. By working together to cover more of the electromagnetic spectrum (microwave and infrared), ATMS and CrIS will provide coverage of a broad range of weather conditions.

“The JPSS-1 ATMS sensor will guarantee that this critical data stream remains seamlessly in place to support global forecasting in the future,” said James Yoe, Ph.D., NOAA’s National Weather Service.

ATMS is built by Northrop Grumman in Azusa, California and was delivered to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado where it was integrated with the spacecraft. ATMS contains key microwave passive components deigned, built, and tested by Custom Microwave, Inc. in Longmont, Colorado. ATMS currently flies on the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite mission and will fly on the JPSS-1, JPSS-2, JPSS-3, and JPSS-4 satellite missions.