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Joint Polar Satellite System

From our global observations to your local weather forecast
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FAQ

Weather satellites, like those in the JPSS constellation, provide meteorologists with remote-sensing data of the Earth. This data is combined with ground-based observations, like radar, to form a more complete picture of weather on Earth, enabling meteorologists to issue life-saving weather forecasts.

NOAA is responsible for the production and maintenance of U.S. earth- and space-weather satellites. NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service provides secure and timely access to global environmental data and information from satellites and other sources to promote and protect the Nation's security, environment, economy, and quality of life. To support that mission, JPSS serves as the polar-satellite arm of the organization.
Polar-orbiting satellites circle the globe from pole-to-pole 14 times a day, imaging the entire Earth at least twice daily, from 512 miles above the surface. This global data includes atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles that are used in numerical weather models to generate weather forecasts out to seven days. These satellites also provide sufficient coverage for near-real-time weather monitoring of the Polar Regions.

Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth in a fixed location 22,400 miles above the equator and thus continuously observe the same location. NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) constellation provides consistent and reliable monitoring of the entire Western Hemisphere and is critical for identifying and tracking severe weather, snow storms, tropical cyclones and emergency locator beacons carried by ships, planes, and even hikers.
JPSS is the Joint Polar Satellite System, the nation’s advanced series of polar-orbiting environmental satellites. JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring. These data are critical to the timeliness and accuracy of forecasts three to seven days in advance of a severe weather event. JPSS is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA.

Since the 1980’s, polar-orbiting satellites have been the critical data source for accurate global weather forecasts. As the weather forecast evolved from the 1980’s to today, the demand for accurate satellite data has grown. The five satellites scheduled in the fleet are the currently-flying NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, JPSS-1 or NOAA-20, as it will be known once on-orbit, JPSS-2, JPSS-3 and JPSS-4. Each satellite carries five state-of-the-art instruments including the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), the Cross-Track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) and an instrument to measure the Earth’s energy budget.
Suomi NPP orbits the Earth from pole-to-pole approximately every 101 minutes with an equator-crossing local time of about 1:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. This means that the satellite views equatorial locations at these times, producing two observations daily at low latitudes. However, there are more frequent observations at the poles, up to 14 daily, since the satellite passes over these higher latitudes on every orbit.

The Suomi NPP and JPSS-1 satellites carry similar instrumentation and will circle Earth in the same orbit, 50 minutes apart. Both spacecraft vehicles were developed by Ball Aerospace Corporation. Technological advancements associated with the launch of the next satellite, JPSS-1, come from the improved ground systems to receive and analyze the data.
JPSS-1 continues the NOAA operational polar satellite sounder missions which dates back to the 1970’s. NOAA-20 with be the 20th operational polar satellite for NOAA.
The launch of JPSS-1 is scheduled for October 12, 2017 at 2:47 PDT. Once it reaches orbit it will be known as NOAA-20. It will be launched on a Delta II 7920-10C rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite will be handed to NOAA for operations a few months after launch, after in-orbit testing of instrumentation is complete.
Suomi NPP has been operational since March of 2012 and was designed to have a five year operational lifetime. The satellite instrumentation is still fully functional and will continue to deliver data until it can no longer do so successfully.

JPSS-1, 2, 3 and 4 have anticipated operational lives of seven years with the potential to be operational for several additional years. Click here for the latest flyout chart from NESDIS.
Suomi NPP and NOAA-20, as it will be known once on-orbit, will both orbit the Earth in the 13:30:00 orbit, separated in time and space by 50 minutes.

The second satellite will provide double the data until Suomi NPP is no longer operational and will provide data continuity until JPSS-2 is launched. Together, Suomi NPP and NOAA-20 will provide improved ‘nowcasting’ of the Polar Regions and weather and environmental monitoring to support the critical three- to seven-day weather forecast.
Suomi NPP and NOAA-20, as it will be known once on-orbit, will both orbit the Earth in the 13:30:00 orbit, separated in time and space by 50 minutes.

Each of the JPSS satellites provide over 40 data products including atmosphere temperature and moisture profiles, polar satellite derived winds, vegetation greenness indices and health, sea surface temperature and ocean color, sea ice extent, snow cover and depth, precipitation type and rate, volcanic ash and fire detection, ozone, clouds and fog, hurricane intensity and position and Alaska Region imagery for ‘nowcasting.’

The full list of data products by instrument is:

JPSS Program Data Products


For more of the scientific applications of JPSS, please see our science overview page.
The cost to develop, build, launch, operate, maintain and sustain Suomi-NPP and four JPSS satellites and the JPSS ground system from 1995 through 2038 is estimated to be $18.8 billion.
JPSS is the newest fleet supporting the Nation’s legacy of more than 40 years of continuous polar-orbiting satellite data. The five satellites in the JPSS program are Suomi-NPP, JPSS-1, JPSS-2, JPSS-3 and JPSS-4. They are not launched at the same time; rather they are built and launched sequentially over many years. Suomi NPP is already orbiting the Earth and JPSS-1 is scheduled for launch in 2017. Starting with JPSS-1 each satellite has a seven year design life and each subsequent JPSS satellite is launched when the operational satellite reach five years in its design life to ensure operational continuity and robustness.
Many domestic and international organizations and agencies have come to rely on the U.S. to provide continuous satellite coverage in the afternoon polar orbit. International weather agencies such as the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have official agreements with NOAA to provide open access to each respective agency’s data. Such agreements leverage global environmental observation assets around the world and provide increased cost efficiencies in space-based observations.

NOAA will also provide the CrIS and ATMS sounder data on the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This means any weather agency from any country can access JPSS sounder data through the GTS. Likewise, our NOAA National Weather Service receives data from other countries through GTS.
The versatile ground system controls the spacecraft, ingests and processes data and provides information to users like NOAA’s National Weather Service as well as other U.S. and international partners. JPSS satellites download their data to ground receivers as they pass over stations in the Arctic and Antarctic every 50 minutes. Suomi NPP downloads to a station in Svalbard, Norway, near the North Pole, and JPSS-1 will download to both the Svalbard station and McMurdo Station, Antarctica, near the South Pole. This allows important overlap in observational coverage. JPSS also provides software that enables data to be received through direct readout stations. Any place in the world can purchase a direct readout antenna to access JPSS data for local applications that enable local communities to prepare for severe weather and environmental events.
The Proving Ground and Risk Reduction (PGRR) Program was established in 2012 with a primary objective to develop and enhance user applications of JPSS data, algorithms, and products. The PGRR program supports user demonstrations of enhanced applications by stimulating interactions between technical experts from the JPSS Program, university partners, and key user stakeholders with a priority to improve NOAA operational applications.

The PGRR Program has been successful in promoting the use of Direct Broadcast for regional applications such as ice, flood, volcanic ash, fire and smoke monitoring. It supported the successful transition of the operational use of a number of different products for weather forecasting and ocean ecosystem monitoring. The PGRR projects are developed through an initiative team which includes a user advocate, a project coordinator and the science and application scientists, in order to define clear objectives and actions needed to improve key operational products and services in an efficient manner.

The Initiatives in the PGRR include:
  • Artic
  • Fire and Smoke
  • Fire and Smoke
  • Ocean and Coastal
  • OCONUS and NCEP Service Centers – AWIPS
  • River Ice and Flooding
  • Sounding Applications
  • Training (crosscutting initiative)
  • Weather/Numerical Weather Prediction/Data Assimilation
Polar satellite data is used in a variety of weather and environmental modelling. NOAA products and services from the National Weather Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean Services all rely on polar-orbiting satellite data. Without polar satellite data, the accuracy of key NOAA services would degrade immediately. External to NOAA, stakeholders include the U.S. Forest Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, broadcast meteorologists, environmental scientists and international weather forecasting agencies. Decisions made by these groups can have daily impacts on every U.S. citizen.

Additional users include:
  • Emergency Responders: When fighting wildfires, emergency responders rely on NOAA’s polar satellites to understand weather conditions and identify “hot spots” in order to deploy first responder and resources. The high spatial resolution and full daily global coverage enables the detection of small fires before they become larger.
  • Aviation Industry: Monitoring ash clouds are critical to aviation safety as evidence by the round-the-globe disruption to the industry during the Icelandic volcanic eruption in 2010. While airports shut down for a few days, they were eventually able to re-reroute flights thanks to NOAA satellite information thus saving millions of dollars in delayed and cancelled flights.
  • Maritime Transportation: Cargo and cruise ships at sea carrying billions of dollars’ worth of good and millions of passengers would not be possible without today’s accuracy. The average expected annual losses to container and bulk shipping in the absence of good information about storm conditions is on the order of $520 million per year.
  • Agriculture: Farmers rely on polar satellites for drought, extreme temperature and length of growing season information to plan their plantings and determine which type of crop to grow.
  • Coastal Residents: Resident living along the coasts rely on the most accurate forecasts possible with as much warning as possible. Less accurate forecasts lead to inefficient evacuations and the unnecessary loss of life and property. Without polar observations, three- to seven-day advance warning of extreme weather events would significantly diminish.
JPSS data is processed through NOAA’sCenter for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) and can be accessed through the Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS), production distribution and access (PDA) or direct readout. Click here for more information about how to download JPSS data.

JPSS imagery is also available through the NOAA View website, an interactive software portal to visualize NOAA’s weather and environmental satellite data.
Over the past two years several NWS organizations and universities have purchased and fielded antennas capable of receiving JPSS data directly. For more information on potential providers, costs, and schedule milestones, please contact the JPSS Program Office.
Yes. Polar-orbiting satellites measure global environmental variables on a daily basis. These observations are used by climate researchers for long-term monitoring and climate models. Long term climatological data records covering decades can be constructed from the daily global observations collected by polar satellites. Looking at the departure of a current observation from a 30-year climatological mean, for example, can provide decision makers better knowledge of the significance of a current event. Beyond climate research and prediction, polar satellite data benefits global sea surface temperature measurements, volcanic eruption monitoring, forest fire detection, global vegetation analysis, ozone hole monitoring and other applications.
JPSS satellites increase the timeliness and accuracy of forecast three to seven days in advance of a severe weather event. NOAA’s National Weather Service uses JPSS data as critical input for numerical forecast models, providing the basis for these mid-range forecasts. These forecasts allow for early warnings and enable emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect American lives and property, including ordering effective evacuations.

NOAA’s polar satellites are critical to the infrastructure and economy. Polar satellites provide critical weather forecasting for the $700 billion maritime commerce sector and offer a value of hundreds of millions of dollars for the fishing industry. The satellites provide critical information for drought forecasts. Drought impacts are the greatest natural hazard – estimated to be $6-8 billion annually in the United States – and impact agriculture, transportation, recreation and tourism, forestry and energy sectors. NOAA satellites can also observe volcanic eruptions and track the movement of ash clouds – at a value of $100 to $200 million to the aviation industry.

JPSS data benefits industry including but not limited to: emergency management, agriculture, aviation, maritime transportation, commercial fishing, shipping, recreational boating, land transportation, defense, coastal community preparedness, land and ocean tourism, energy, construction, insurance, and conservation.