Ball Aerospace-built GMI Instrument Begins Operations

Boulder, Colorado. March 4, 2014. The Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Microwave Imager started to spin at its normal rate today and collect science data on Earth’s rain and snowfall.

Launched aboard NASA’s GPM Core Observatory on February 27, GMI’s electronics have been turned on and all seven launch restraints released, deploying the instrument. GMI, a multi-channel, conical-scanning microwave radiometer built for NASA, began spinning today collecting the first science data of the mission. The GMI will complete several additional check-out procedures during the commissioning process.

“GMI is on the way to setting a new standard for data accuracy that will provide more timely, detailed information forecasters need to track extreme weather events,” said Ball Aerospace President Rob Strain. “Using GMI’s data, the world’s scientists will have a more accurate picture of the world’s precipitation dataset.”

The Ball Aerospace-built instrument will deliver more frequent and higher quality data collection than currently available. The eight-foot tall GMI radiometer rotates at 32 revolutions per minute and uses four extremely stable calibration points on each revolution to calibrate the data it scans. The instrument minimizes solar intrusion for added accuracy and features higher frequency channels to measure smaller particles of precipitation such as light rain and snow.

GMI is an essential part of an international satellite mission that will capture next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. The GPM Core Observatory will deliver unprecedented 3-D views of hurricanes and snowstorms and contribute to monitoring and forecasting weather events such as droughts, floods and landslides.

GMI is one example of Ball’s long support of the country’s weather and climate monitoring efforts. The GPM constellation includes the Ball Aerospace-built Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite which launched in 2011 and the first Joint Polar Satellite System, currently in development at Ball, both of which will enable faster, more accurate weather forecasting. GPM, along with these two satellites, will significantly enhance our nation’s ability to prepare for severe weather events.

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-2) and the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS).