Ball Weather Instrument to Launch in February

Artist concept of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Artist concept of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Washington, D.C. January 3, 2014. Environmental research and weather forecasting are about to get a significant technology boost as NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) prepare to launch a new satellite in February.

NASA and JAXA selected 1:07 p.m. to 3:07 p.m. EST Thursday, February 27 (3:07 a.m. to 5:07 a.m. JST Friday, February 28) as the launch date and launch window for a Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center.

GPM is an international satellite mission that will provide advanced observations of rain and snowfall worldwide, several times a day to enhance our understanding of the water and energy cycles that drive Earth’s climate. The data provided by the Core Observatory will be used to calibrate precipitation measurements made by an international network of partner satellites to quantify when, where, and how much it rains or snows around the world.

“Launching this core observatory and establishing the Global Precipitation Measurement mission is vitally important for environmental research and weather forecasting,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Knowing rain and snow amounts accurately over the whole globe is critical to understanding how weather and climate impact agriculture, fresh water availability, and responses to natural disasters.”

With the addition of the new Core Observatory, the satellites in the GPM constellation will include the NASA-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership mission, launched in 2012; the NASA-JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), launched in 1997; and several other satellites managed by JAXA, NOAA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, the Centre National D’Etudies Spatiales of France and the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“We will use data from the GPM mission not only for Earth science research but to improve weather forecasting and respond to meteorological disasters,” said Shizuo Yamamoto, executive director of JAXA. “We would also like to aid other countries in the Asian region suffering from flood disasters by providing data for flood alert systems. Our dual-frequency precipitation radar, developed with unique Japanese technologies, plays a central role in the GPM mission.”

The GPM Core Observatory builds on the sensor technology developed for the TRMM mission, with two innovative new instruments. The GPM Microwave Imager, built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colorado, will observe rainfall and snowfall at 13 different frequencies. The Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, developed by JAXA with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Tokyo, transmits radar frequencies that will detect ice and light rain, as well as heavier rainfall. It also will be able to measure the size and distribution of raindrops, snowflakes and ice particles.

Ball’s GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) is a multi-channel, conical-scanning, microwave radiometer that will capture next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours, as well as unprecedented 3-D views of hurricanes and snowstorms. GPM data will also contribute to the monitoring and forecasting of weather events such as droughts, floods and hurricanes.

“Ball is proud to be part of an international satellite mission that has advanced microwave sensor capabilities to set a new standard of calibration for the scientific community,” said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager of Ball’s Civil Space and Technology business unit.

Roughly ten-and-a-half feet tall, the GMI instrument is a powerhouse of radiometry. Rotating at 32 revolutions per minute, it will use four very stable calibration points on each revolution to calibrate the data it has scanned. Ball Aerospace designed, developed and fabricated the GMI which is central to the mission’s success because it provides temporal sampling of rainfall accumulations and more frequent and higher quality data collection than currently available. With less than two percent of the Earth’s total water volume being potable, the scientific community has long been committed to acquiring more precise and complete precipitation information.

GMI, along with the JAXA-provided Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, will make radiometric and radar measurements of precipitation around the world and will provide the comprehensive data needed for global rain maps and climate research products. These instruments will also provide an accurate reference for calibrating other microwave radiometers in the GPM constellation.

GMI’s design is based on successful microwave sensors built previously by Ball Aerospace, including the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C (SIR-C), the GEOSAT Follow-On (GFO) and the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS).

For more information on the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/gpm

and

http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/gpm/index_e.html