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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 Earth's atmosphere, land, and oceans. These data are combined with ground-based observations, like radar, to form a more complete picture of the weather and enable meteorologists to issue life-saving 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. JPSS supports that mission 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 approximately 22,300 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 a critical data source for accurate global weather forecasts. As the science of weather forecasting has evolved from the 1980’s to today, the demand for more accurate satellite data has grown. The four satellites in the fleet are NOAA-20 (formally JPSS-1), JPSS-2, JPSS-3 and JPSS-4. Each of these satellites can carry 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 circles the globe 14 times per day. Traveling at approximately 17,000 miles per hour, each pole-to-pole orbit takes approximately 101 minutes and crosses the equator at about 1:30 a.m. southbound and 1:30 p.m. northbound (local solar time). This means that the satellite views the same equatorial location twice a day. 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 NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, which launched in October 2011, is considered the bridge between NOAA's legacy polar satellite fleet, NASA's Earth observing missions and the JPSS constellation. Suomi NPP carries instruments similar to those on NOAA-20: ATMS, CrIS, VIIRS, OMPS, and the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System Flight Model 5, or CERES FM5, which measures the solar energy reflected by Earth. Although it was built with a design life of five years, Suomi NPP continues to function normally and provide valuable data and imagery to NOAA's National Weather Service and other users.

Although both spacecraft were developed by Ball Aerospace Corporation, NOAA-20 does offer some technological advancements. For instance, NOAA-20 was designed for 7 years of operations and includes steerable Ka-band antennas for faster transmission of the Stored Mission Data. NOAA-20 has two spacecraft control processors, while SNPP has one spacecraft control computer, and the satellite has more efficient solar cells and two lithium-ion batteries. NOAA-20 also carries a slightly different OMPS instrument (the OMPS-Nadir as opposed to Suomi NPP’s OMPS-Limb instrument). In addition, the JPSS ground system, which receives and process the data from both satellites, offers additional improvements. (See the additional information about the JPSS ground system below.)
The launch of JPSS-1 took place on November 18, 2017 at 1:47 (PST) and the satellite became known as NOAA-20 when it reached orbit. JPSS-1 was renamed NOAA-20 because the satellite is a continuation of the NOAA operational polar satellite missions, which date back to the 1970’s. Therefore, NOAA-20 is the 20th operational polar satellite for NOAA.
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/NOAA-20 and JPSS-2, -3 and -4 have anticipated operational lives of seven years with the potential to be operational for several more. Click here for the latest flyout chart from NESDIS.
Suomi NPP and NOAA-20 are orbiting the Earth in the 13:30:00 orbit, separated in time and space by 50 minutes. In doing so, these satellites will provide two times the data in support of three- to seven-day weather forecasts and environmental monitoring. Should Suomi NPP become nonoperational, NOAA-20 will provide data continuity until the launch of JPSS-2 in 2021.
JPSS satellites provide over 40 data products, including atmospheric 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 imagery for enhanced ‘nowcasting’ of Alaska and the Polar Regions. For a full list of products, see the graphic below.

JPSS Program Data Products

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 $18.9 billion.
All JPSS satellites have a seven-year design life. To ensure operational continuity and robustness, each subsequent JPSS spacecraft will be launched when the primary operational satellite reaches five years old.
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 Organization 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 also provides 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 this same system.
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 or to Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (or TDRSS) satellites as they pass over stations at the Earth’s poles or within planned communications with TDRSS satellites. Suomi NPP downloads to a station in Svalbard, Norway, near the North Pole, and NOAA-20 downloads to both the Svalbard and the 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 agency, organization, or university can purchase a direct readout antenna to access JPSS data for use in local applications to help their communities prepare for severe weather and environmental hazards.
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 from research to operational use of a number of different products for weather forecasting and ocean ecosystem monitoring. The PGRR projects are developed through initiative teams consisting of a user advocate, a project coordinator, application scientists, and other experts. The goal of these teams is to define clear objectives and specify the actions needed to improve key operational products and services in an efficient manner.
Offices across the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rely on polar-orbiting satellite data in support of its mission to promote and protect the Nation's security, environment, economy, and quality of life. Without it, the accuracy and effectiveness of the services these agencies provide would degrade immediately. Beyond NOAA, polar satellite data are used by a range of stakeholders, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, broadcast meteorologists, environmental scientists and international weather forecasting agencies.

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 evidenced 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 goods 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 crops 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.
NOAA’s polar satellites are critical to the U.S economy, as the weather forecasts created with JPSS data are relied on by economic sectors ranging from agriculture to retail. For example, JPSS satellites provide critical information on droughts, which are estimated to cause $6-8 billion in damage to the economy each year due to their impact on agriculture, energy, forestry, recreation, tourism and transportation. NOAA satellites can also observe volcanic eruptions and track the movement of ash clouds--a value of $100 to $200 million to the aviation industry.

In addition, data from the JPSS program’s polar-orbiting satellites are also incorporated into long-term climate and environmental data records the can be used by a decision-makers, scientists and stakeholders in public service and a wide variety of disciplines and industries to improve the Nation’s resilience to climate change and variability, thereby protecting our economic viability and the well-being of the public.