NASA Podcasts

NOAA-N Prime Mission Overview
01.30.09
 
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Narrator: We don’t always think about that, but we depend on weather data every day. In the morning we make a decision on what to wear or whether we should take an umbrella or maybe even decide not to drive because there is a warning for icy conditions on the road.

On a bigger scale, weather data helps improve the efficiency in many sectors of the U.S. economy, saving industry and the general public at least 5 Billion Dollars per year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known as NOAA, owns and operates weather satellites built and launched by NASA that help save lives and resources.

Since 1960, NOAA has operated a fleet of Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellites called POES, complimented by the higher altitude Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, known as GOES; together these two satellite constellations are advancing mankind’s ability to see the whole Earth continuously and predict severe weather events with greater accuracy.

In 2009 NASA will launch NOAA-N Prime. Operated by NOAA, N Prime will be the last in the Television Infrared Observation Satellite Series or TIROS.

Tom Wrublewski / NOAA-N Prime Satellite Acquisition Manager: NOAA-N Prime is going to give us data the same as we’ve been getting it in the past but its main role is continuity of service and to restore some of the degraded instruments that we’ve had. So we are looking forward to a fresh satellite that has a 100% everything working and will also help us continue our services until the next generation of NPOESS satellites is ready, so we need this satellite to last for at least 3 years.

Narrator: Continuously delivered satellite weather data provides the building blocks for far-reaching climate and research programs.

Data provided by NOAA’s weather satellites has many government, commercial, and humanitarian applications.

To name a few; search and rescue instruments carried on NOAA’s weather satellites help save lives every day. Scientist can monitor the vegetation index to know whether crops are in stress and need water. Farmers rely on the weather forecast to know when they should plant and harvest the crops. Fishermen use weather data to decide when and where to fish. Tracking migratory animals, endangered species, volcanic eruptions, forest fires and icebergs are also a function of NOAA’s weather satellites. Ships take advantage of information provided about ocean currents, streams, and even icebergs to save fuel and chart safe routes. Weather satellites provide critical space environment data that warns astronauts about high solar activity so they can seek shelter in their space station.

Mickey Fitzmaurice / NOAA Search & Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) Program, Satellite Systems Engineer: These satellites that NOAA has NASA launch, they don’t just benefit the US, they benefit everyone in the World. These satellites over the last 50 years, since 1960, have increased the abilities on all fronts and everyone has benefited. Just in so many areas, the whole world has benefited.

Narrator: September 9, 1900, a devastating category 4 storm hits Galveston, TX without a warning.

The Texana Review News and Information Collection News Report Read by Ed Blackburn: Galveston has been the scene of one of the greatest catastrophes in the World’s history. The situation looked desperate.

Narrator: Back then weather satellites were still an impossible dream. The lack of timely and accurate warning meant the difference between survival and death.

President Kennedy’s speech September 12, 1962 Address at Rice University in Houston on the Nation's Space Effort: Within these last 19 months at least 45 satellites have circled the Earth. Some 40 of them were made in the United States of America. Transit satellites are helping our ships at sea to steer a safer course. TIROS satellites have given us unprecedented warnings of hurricanes and storms, and will do the same for forest fires and icebergs.

Narrator: The first weather satellite TIROS-1 was launched on April 1, 1960 from Cape Canaveral, FL. The satellite weighed 122 kg and carried two TV cameras and two video recorders.

Tom Wrublewski / NOAA-N Prime Satellite Acquisition Manager: The first picture of clouds was pretty rough and it was actually classified and rushed down to the White House.

Narrator: With the advance of science and technology, we can now be fairly certain that a Galveston storm will never be a surprise again.

The microwave instruments on board NOAA-N Prime are so sensitive that they can see Earth’s surface through the clouds.

As it orbits at 860km above Earth’s atmosphere, NOAA-N Prime sends near real time data for evolving severe weather formations. This up-to-the-minute data is crucial to many remote parts of the world where satellite data is the only source of information on developing weather patterns.

Being a polar orbiting satellite and orbiting the Earth once every 102 minutes, a huge advantage of NOAA-N Prime is that it sees what’s developing on the other side of the Earth, thus giving an advanced warning prior to severe weather reaching land.

Tom Wrublewski / NOAA-N Prime Satellite Acquisition Manager: We need to let people know right away that there is a solar flare coming, there is this hurricane, there is this tornado lined, or outbreak heading your way, or there is some lake effect snow coming off the great lakes; these are all things that we need to let people know today or as soon as possible that that’s going to happen.

Narrator: What’s in the future?

A tri-agency effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Department of Defense, and NASA will result in the launch of a next generation highly advanced environmental watch system called NPOESS, which will unite the present civilian and military polar-orbiting programs into one pioneering system, thus saving more lives and resources.

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