JPSS-1 satellite will help area firefighters

While at Vandenberg, Space Correspondent Roger Eckart witnessed the Green Flash at sunset. Photo by Roger Eckart

Roger Eckart
Union Space Correspondent

EARTH – JPSS-1 launched into the early morning misty gloom over Vandenberg Air Force Base last Saturday morning.

ROGER THAT Baysider Roger Eckart at Vandenberg AFB with the United Launch Alliance Delta II/JPSS-1.
Photo courtesy Roger Eckart

Most folks are unaware of ongoing launches by NASA and their various commercial partners and simply accept the improvements in our daily lives. Mission scientists are planning for years in advance. Seeking the best proven instruments to gather the data they deem necessary for expanding our knowledge of Earth and our solar system.

JPSS-1, the Joint Polar Satellite System, first of four, is a weather satellite designed to complement existing weather satellites and provide increased accuracy in the seven-day weather forecasts we receive. The forecasts we use to plan our Thanksgiving travels and daily routines.

After three delays, the launch of JPSS-1 atop a ULA Delta II rocket was successful on Saturday, Nov. 18.

JPSS-1 will become NOAA 20 when fully operational after it is tested on orbit and finally commissioned. It will mirror SUOMI-NPP launched in 2011, in a sun synchronous polar orbit, thus the necessity of a launch from Vandenberg AFB, and the 66-second launch window. These satellites have very similar instruments and maintain the same orbit 180 degrees apart, passing over the same spot on earth twice per day at the same solar time. They provide additional information to the geo-synchronous GOES weather satellites, GOES-16 being the most recent.

JPSS-1’s instruments include a grab bag of acronyms but they measure data in the infrared and microwave range and give more precise information on temperature, pressure, and moisture, as well as ozone. The detail of their data is greatly improved and thus the greater accuracy of the forecast weather.

One instrument will prove especially useful in California. It is the VIIRS or Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which provides data usable by CalFire in their efforts to respond appropriately to potential and ongoing fire incidents. Jana Luis, CalFire division chief, predictive services, stated in the pre-launch science briefing that current weather satellite data allowed CalFire to pre-position four of the six California Incident Management teams prior to the day of catastrophic fires recently in Northern California. This predictive ability can be immensely useful in our local forests as well.


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