CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (NASA PR) — Behind every weather forecast—from your local, five-day prediction to a late-breaking hurricane track update—are the satellites that make them possible. Government agencies depend on observations from weather satellites to inform forecast models that help us prepare for approaching storms and identify areas that need evacuating or emergency first responders.
Weather satellites have traditionally been large, both in the effort needed to build them and in actual size. They can take several years to build and can be as big as a small school bus. But all of that could change in the future with the help of a shoebox-sized satellite that will start orbiting Earth later this month.
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., November 18, 2017 (NOAA PR) — The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, the first in a new series of four highly advanced NOAA polar-orbiting satellites, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 1:47 a.m. PST this morning. The satellite’s next-generation technology will help improve the timeliness and accuracy of U.S. weather forecasts three to seven days out.
“The value of the new JPSS satellite cannot be understated after this tragic hurricane season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “JPSS offers an unparalleled perspective on our planet’s weather, granting NOAA advanced insights which will be used to guard American lives and communities.”
The Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1), the first in a new series of four highly advanced National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar-orbiting satellites, is now scheduled to launch on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 2 is targeted for 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 a.m. EST). Launch coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website at 1:15 a.m. PST.
JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring. JPSS is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA. The JPSS system will help increase weather forecast accuracy from three to seven days.
NOAA’s National Weather Service uses JPSS data as critical input for numerical forecast models, providing the basis for mid-range forecasts. These forecasts enable emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect American lives and property, including early warnings and evacuations.
JPSS satellites circle the Earth from pole-to-pole and cross the equator 14 times daily–providing full global coverage twice a day. Polar satellites are considered the backbone of the global observing system.
NASA Nominee Kinda Sorta Doesn’t Really Walk Back Position on Global Warming
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
On Friday, the U.S. government released a long-in-the-making report on climate change that contained a stark assessment of what humans are doing to planet Earth.
“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report states. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”
Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.
The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.
NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.
The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.
Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.
The House of Representatives has approved a far-reaching measure designed to revamp NOAA’s weather forecasting operations that includes a pilot program for using commercial weather data.
The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 requires NOAA to develop a strategy for acquiring commercial weather data and to enter into at least one contract under a pilot program. The data can be obtained through contracts with commercial providers and the placement of instruments on co-hosted private or government payloads.
“The strategy shall assess the range of commercial opportunities, including public-private partnerships, for obtaining surface-based, aviation-based, and space-based weather observations,” the act stipulates. “The strategy shall include the expected cost-effectiveness of these opportunities as well as provide a plan for procuring data, including an expected implementation timeline, from these nongovernmental sources, as appropriate.”
The measure provides $6 million per year for the pilot program in Fiscal Years 2017 through 2020.
Three years after signing a commercial weather contract, NOAA would submit an assessment of the viability of commercial weather data to the House and Senate science committees. If the data are viable, the agency would be required to assess whether it needs to develop future weather satellites on its own or could rely on commercial purchases.
The act requires NOAA to conduct a simulation experiment to assess the value of radio occulation from the global navigation satellite system. The agency would also conduct an experiment “to assess the value of data from a geostationary hyperspectral sounder global constellation….
“Upon completion of all Observing System Simulation Experiments, the Assistant Administrator shall make available to the public the results an assessment of related private and public sector weather data sourcing options, including their availability, affordability, and cost-effectiveness,” the act reads.
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA successfully launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the first in a series of highly advanced geostationary weather satellites Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The measure calls on the president to develop a doctrine to deal with attacks on U.S. government and commercial satellites.
It also broadly focuses on integrating commercial assets to supplement defense systems, including hosting DOD payloads on private satellites, using commercial communications systems, and purchasing commercial space data for weather forecasting.
A summary of the provisions follows. A number of the changes have been incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act, which was recently approved by the House Armed Services Committee. Adopted provisions are marked in blue.