The first spacecraft in the nation's next generation of polar-orbiting satellites is set for launch in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, and the mission has strong Boulder ties.
Polar satellites like the JPSS-1, which orbit the globe from pole-to-pole 14 times a day, are considered the backbone of the global observing system.
The satellite, called JPSS-1, will provide meteorologists with a variety of observations, such as atmospheric temperature and moisture, sea-surface temperature, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash and fire detection. JPSS 1 will go into orbit around 500 miles (800 kilometers) high and use five instruments to measure temperature and humidity in the atmosphere, solar radiation reflected off the Earth, ozone health, and other key data to aid weather forecasters. "For the better part of a decade, scientists and policymakers have been very concerned about a gap in polar-orbiting satellite coverage of the Earth due to delays in launching JPSS-1 and the obvious aging or potential failure of older birds in orbit", according to Maue. It will also provide tracking of weather conditions and can be used to produce advanced weather forecast five to seven days out for events such as hurricanes.
The CrIS instrument is the first in a series of newly advanced sounders that will make more detailed, accurate records of atmospheric temperature and moisture levels, which should allow for superior weather forecasting models. "The Flight 2 development, build and test have proceeded smoothly and follow the success of the Flight 1 instrument for NPOESS Preparatory Project". Over longer timescales, this data will help improve our understanding of climate patterns that influence the weather, such as El Nino and La Nina.
NASA says the rocket had only a 66-second launch window.
The launch will take place at 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California.
The Delta II stands 125-128 feet (38.2-39 meters) in height (depending on the fairing) and has a core diameter of about 8 feet (2.44 meters); it has a launch mass of approximately 152-232 metric tons.
The Delta II rocket has been the workhorse of ULA since it was first launched in February 1989.