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 NOAA-N Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is the NOAA-N countdown and launch being televised? By who ? Networks ? How can we in UK, access these broadcasts ?

Yes, it is being televised on NASA TV. NASA TV is provided via cable network in various locations across the United States. Sorry, but I do not know if NASA TV is available outside the United States. However, NASA TV is available on the Web and you do have access to that. There are several streams available at -

2. Confirm the window is still between 10:22 and 10:32 GMT, 6:22 am EDT and 3:22 PDT.

Yes, the window is still the same.

3. What is the Polar Operational Environmental Satellite program (POES) and what is NASA’s role in it?

Since the 1960s, NASA has developed the Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA-N, the latest NOAA spacecraft, is scheduled for launch in the spring of 2005. The overall POES Program is managed by NOAA, which establishes requirements, provides funding, and distributes environmental data for the United States. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., teams with NOAA to acquire and manage the study, design and development of each of the POES satellites.

The NOAA satellites carry instruments that observe our Earth and provide global data for NOAA’s operational user requirements including short, medium, and long-range weather forecasts. The two polar-orbiting satellites track global weather patterns affecting the weather and climate of the U. S. and the world. NASA scientists use the polar orbiters' ultraviolet sensors to measure ozone levels in the atmosphere and are able to detect the ozone hole over Antarctica from mid-September to mid-November.

NASA scientists utilize the NOAA operational products in their Earth science research. They also develop new methodology to analyze the satellite data to produce new and/or improved satellite products.

The satellites send millions of global measurements daily to NOAA’s Command and Data Acquisition stations in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Wallops Island, Virginia, and to its data processing center in Suitland, Maryland, adding valuable information to forecasting models, especially for ocean areas, where conventional ground-based data are lacking.

Currently, NOAA has two operational polar orbiters: NOAA-16, launched in September 2000, into a 2:00 p.m. local solar time orbit and NOAA-17, launched in June 2002, into a 10:00 a.m. local solar time orbit. NOAA-N will replace NOAA-16 in a 2:00 p.m. local solar time orbit. NOAA-N will be renamed NOAA-18 after achieving orbit. Therefore, to avoid confusion, they are numbered upon reaching orbit.

4. How does the POES program differ from the GOES program?

The POES spacecraft serve as complementary satellites to the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) system. The GOES satellites provide hourly observations but only over limited areas centered about their equatorial locations. The two GOES satellites provide data from the continental U.S. and Hawaii, and well out into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to NOAA forecasters. This is useful for monitoring severe weather and short-term weather prediction. The POES spacecraft provide full global data four times daily which is useful for short, medium, and long-range forecast models, climate modeling, and various other secondary missions.

5. What are the key objectives of the POES mission?

The objectives of this mission are to collect and disseminate worldwide meteorological and environmental data.

The satellite system provides (1) imaging and quantitative measurements of the Earth’s atmosphere, its surface, and cloud cover. This information includes natural radiation leaving the earth’s atmosphere, atmospheric ozone distribution, sea and land surface temperatures, vegetation health and coverage, vertical temperature profiles through the stratosphere, and water vapor profiles in the troposphere; (2) measurement of proton and electron flux at orbit altitude; (3) remote platform data collection. It also includes a Search and Rescue Satellite-aided Tracking (SARSAT) system. SARSAT is part of an international satellite system for search and rescue, which includes the NOAA spacecraft and the Russian provided satellites (COSPAS). The system consists of the satellites in polar orbit and an international network of Earth stations, which provide global distress alert and location information to appropriate rescue authorities. The goal of this humanitarian effort is to reduce the time required to rescue air and maritime distress victims and thereby significantly increase their chances for survival.

6. How does the Data Collection System (DCS) collect environmental data from migratory animals? What types of animals are used and in what locations in the world?

The Argoes Data Collection System (DCS) processes and disseminates environmental data received from fixed and mobile platforms from anywhere in the world. Argos is a joint program of the French Space Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1974 and extended in 1986 defines each partner's responsibilities.

The DCS is flown on all of NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellites, TIROS-N, and NOAA-A through N-Prime. An Argos Platform Transmitter Terminal (PTT) is attached to an animal. The terminal transmissions are received by the satellites and sent to ground stations and processing stations, where the data are retrieved, processed (primarily for location information), and distributed to users. The Argos system is routinely used for tracking such terrestrial animals as bear, caribou, elephants and birds, and marine species like the whale, dolphin, turtle, and basking shark. Miniaturized transmitters allow Argos to track migratory birds such as storks, swans, cranes, geese, and eagles. The system is also used to monitor the habits of endangered species such as Peregrine falcons and manatees.

Transmitters utilized by the DCS are available in many sizes with the smallest weighing 25g and operating at a low power of 20-40 mw. Various sensors may be attached to the transmitter. This variety of transmitter capability allows wildlife researchers to study the migration and physiology of such animals as caribou, ibex, camel, dugong, whale and various birds. Doppler measurements on the uplink signal provide location while data embedded in the signal provides environmental information. The satellite system, providing global coverage, allows access to any of the animal habitats.

Argos data is processed and made available to users in the United States by Services Argos, Inc., a not for profit private company.

7. How does NASA use the data obtained from the NOAA-N instruments?

Data from the NOAA spacecraft are helping NASA scientists design instruments for follow-on missions for NASA’s Earth-Sun System Division, within NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NOAA has the responsibility to process, analyze, disseminate, and archive all operational data. These data are made available to NASA researchers and others for research and environmental applications. NASA scientists are also developing improved methodology to analyze the data on NOAA-N.

8. What is the future of the POES missions?

One more POES spacecraft will be launched after NOAA-N, NOAA-N’ that has a planning launch date of February 2009 and it will be operated in an afternoon orbit. Under an agreement with NOAA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites will begin operating polar-orbiting satellites known as Metop in 2006 and will assume responsibility for the morning orbit. The Metop satellites will carry both US-provided and European-developed instruments. The data from these satellites will be made available to NOAA as part of the agreement.

A new generation of environmental satellites called the National Polar Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) will become operational after the POES satellites complete their mission. NPOESS is a tri-agency (NOAA, Department of Defense, NASA) program. NPOESS will provide more capable sensors for improved data collection and better weather forecasts.

NPOESS will provide long-term systematic measurements of key environmental variables beginning about 2009. In preparation for this NPOESS system, an NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) mission will provide risk reduction for this future operational system and it will maintain continuity of certain environmental data sets that were initiated with NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. NPP will launch in 2007.

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Editor: Jeanne Ryba
NASA Official: Brian Dunbar
Last Updated: August 5, 2008
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