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Blog Category: Satellite

Nation’s Newest Environmental Satellite Successfully Launched

An arc of light illuminates the pre-dawn sky at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as a Delta II rocket launches with the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft payload.

NPP is vital for NOAA’s weather forecast mission

America’s newest polar-orbiting satellite roared into orbit this morning, setting the stage for enhanced weather data NOAA scientists will use to develop life-saving severe weather forecasts days in advance.

The NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force, Calif., at 2:48 a.m. PDT aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. At approximately 3:45 a.m. PDT, the spacecraft separated from the Delta II to the delight of NOAA and NASA officials.

NPP is a NASA Earth-observing satellite and features five new instruments that will collect more detailed information about Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans.  NASA will use NPP as a research mission, while NOAA will use the data for short and long-term weather forecasting and environmental monitoring.

“This year has been one for the record books for severe weather,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The need for improved data from NPP and the next generation satellite system under development by NASA and NOAA has never been greater.  They will enhance our ability to alert the public with as much lead time as possible.”

In 2011, data from polar-orbiting satellites like NPP allowed emergency managers and communities to prepare for severe weather events . Five days before a destructive and deadly tornado outbreak in Alabama and parts of the Southeast in April, NOAA forecasters were able to see the early atmospheric signs of the storm system developing and issue timely warnings.  NOAA  full release

NOAA: Deepwater Horizon Incident, Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Update

Photo of Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill from NASA Satellite

Improving weather today allowed both NOAA overflights and dispersant operations to resume. Today, four aircraft applied dispersants to the surface slick, and dispersant application by vessels is expected to begin tomorrow. Monitoring of the dispersant efforts are ongoing. NOAA overflights were conducted over the source as well as south from Mobile. At present, technical specialists and other personnel from many agencies and organizations are assisting NOAA in providing scientific support for the spill response. (Incident News)

NOAA's GOES-15 Weather Satellite Captures Its First Image of Earth

View of Eath taken by GOES-15. Click for larger image.

GOES-15, launched on March 4 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, joins three other NOAA operational GOES spacecraft that help the agency's forecasters track life-threatening weather—from tornadoes, floods and hurricanes—and solar activity that can impact the satellite-based electronics and communications industry. The black and white full-disk image shows North and South America with a storm system visible across the United States, indicated by a drape of clouds from New England westward to the central Plains. Further west is a cold front over the Rocky Mountains. Mostly clear skies are seen over the mid-Atlantic, southeastern U.S., Gulf of Mexico, California and Mexico. (More)

50th Anniversary of the Satellite that "Forever Changed Weather Forecasting"

One of the first satellite images. Click for a full version.

Fifty years ago today, the world’s first weather satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and opened a new and exciting dimension in weather forecasting. Top leaders from Commerce’s NOAA and NASA hailed the milestone as an example of their agencies’ strong partnership and commitment to flying the best satellites today and beyond. The first image from the satellite, known as TIROS-1, was a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over the United States. An image captured a few days later revealed a typhoon about 1,000 miles east of Australia. TIROS-1, a polar-orbiting satellite, weighed 270 pounds and carried two cameras and two video recorders. (More)

Newest NOAA Geostationary Satellite Reaches Orbit

GOES emblem

Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA officials announced a new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES), launched tonight, successfully reached its initial orbit, joining four other GOES spacecraft that help NOAA forecasters track life-threatening weather and solar activity. “Our geostationary satellites are the nation’s weather sentinels in the sky,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “With more than 35 million Americans living in hurricane prone areas and more than 1,000 tornadoes touching down in the U.S. annually, we need the reliable, accurate data that these satellites provide.” (More) (Launch image)

NOAA National Weather Service to Use New Hurricane Wind Scale

Satellite image of Hurricane Ike, 2008. Click for larger image.

NOAA’s National Weather Service will use a new hurricane scale this season called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The scale keeps the same wind speed ranges as the original Saffir-Simpson Scale for each of the five hurricane categories, but no longer ties specific storm surge and flooding effects to each category. Changes were made to the Saffir-Simpson Scale because storm surge values and associated flooding are dependent on a combination of the storm’s intensity, size, motion and barometric pressure, as well as the depth of the near-shore waters and local topographical features. (More)

NIST Issues First Release of Framework for Smart Grid Interoperability

Satellite image of North America at night showing electrical illumniation and outline of grid. Click for larger image.

Photo: NASA

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued an initial list of standards, a preliminary cyber security strategy, and other elements of a framework to support transforming the nation’s aging electric power system into an interoperable “Smart Grid,” a key component of the Obama administration’s energy plan and its strategy for American innovation. By integrating digital computing and communication technologies and services with the power-delivery infrastructure, the Smart Grid will enable bidirectional flows of energy and two-way communication and control capabilities. (More) (Release)

NOAA Satellites Help Rescue 195 People in 2009

Image of COSPAS-SARSAT Systems overview. Click for larger image.

NOAA’s fleet of satellites played a vital role in the rescues of 195 people during life-threatening situations throughout the U.S. and its surrounding waters in 2009. In each incident, NOAA satellites pinpointed these downed pilots, shipwrecked mariners, or stranded hikers by detecting a distress signal from an emergency beacon and relaying the information to first responders on the ground. NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites, along with Russia’s Cospas spacecraft, are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking system, called COSPAS-SARSAT. (More) (Rescue at sea photo)

Secretary Locke Unveils Plan for "Smart Grid" Interoperability

NASA Satellite Photo

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke unveiled an accelerated plan for developing standards to transform the U.S. power distribution system into a secure, more efficient and environmentally-friendly “Smart Grid” and create clean-energy jobs. Produced by Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the document identifies approximately 80 initial standards that will enable the vast number of interconnected devices and systems that will make up the nationwide “Smart Grid” to communicate and work with each other. The draft report, the first phase of NIST’s three-phase approach to develop Smart Grid standards, will be available for public comment and review for 30 days. (More) (Report) (Remarks)

Study: Better Observations, Analyses Detecting Short-Lived Tropical Systems

Satellite image of Tropical Storm Chantal forming south of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click for larger image.

A NOAA-led team of scientists has found that the apparent increase in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes since the late 19th and early 20th centuries is likely attributable to improvements in observational tools and analysis techniques that better detect short-lived storms. The new study shows that short-lived tropical storms and hurricanes, defined as lasting two days or less, have increased from less than one per year to about five per year from 1878 to 2008. (More)

NOAA Reports GOES-14 Spacecraft Shows First Image

The spacecraft is transported to the launch site on large truck beds. Click for larger image.

NASA Photo

NOAA’s newest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) took its first full-disc visible image on July 27 at 2 p.m. EDT. GOES-14 joins three other operational NOAA GOES spacecraft that help the agency’s forecasters track life-threatening weather and solar activity that can impact the satellite-based electronics and communications industry. The satellites continuously provide observations of 60 percent of the Earth including the continental U.S., providing weather monitoring and forecast operations as well as a continuous and reliable stream of environmental information and severe weather Warnings. (More Photos and NASA Video of Launch)

NOAA Scientists Find Tsunami "Shadow" Visible from Space

Ground track of satellite image, showing progress of tsunami at hourly intervals. Click for larger image.

For the first time, Scientists from Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have demonstrated that tsunamis in the open ocean can change sea surface texture in a way that can be measured by satellite-borne radars. The finding could one day help save lives through improved detection and forecasting of tsunami intensity and direction at the ocean surface.“We’ve found that roughness of the surface water provides a good measure of the true strength of the tsunami along its entire leading edge. This is the first time that we can see tsunami propagation in this way across the open ocean,” said lead author Oleg Godin. (More)

Secretary Locke Urges Unprepared Consumers to Ensure At Least One Television is DTV-Ready for June 12 Switch

TV Converter Box Coupon Program logo. Click to visit DTV2009 Web site.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke urged Americans who rely on over-the-air broadcasting–typically those who use older televisions with “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna–to take immediate action so that at least one television in their household continues working when the nationwide switch to digital television occurs one week from today. "With one week to go before the nation’s switch to digital broadcasting, I urge consumers who use an older television not on cable or satellite to take the necessary steps to ensure that they can continue receiving the news and information they rely on after June 12," Locke said. (More) (Apply for Coupon) (

NOAA, Army Corps of Engineers to Build Alaska Satellite Operations Facility

Illustration of COSPAS-SARSAT Symtem Overview. Click for larger image.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will construct a new NOAA satellite operations facility in Fairbanks, Alaska. The contract is valued at $11.7 million. NOAA will use $9 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and additional funding provided by the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 to complete this project. NOAA’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, will jointly manage the construction effort. (More)

NOAA Announces New Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites

Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina. Click for larger image.

Scientists from Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have teamed up with experts from the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University to form the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites. The new institute will use satellite observations to detect, monitor and forecast climate change, and its impact on the environment, including ecosystems. “To help us understand climate change, we have to find ways to best leverage all of our available resources, including the information we get from satellites,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. (More)

NOAA Prepares to Launch New Polar-Orbiting Satellite for Climate and Weather

Photo of satellite.

A new NOAA polar-orbiting environmental satellite, set to launch next month, will support NOAA’s weather and ocean forecasts, including long-range climate predictions for El Niño and La Niña and support U.S. search and rescue operations. The new spacecraft – NOAA-N Prime – is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 4, 2009 at 2:22 a.m. PST. Once in orbit, NOAA-N Prime will be called NOAA-19, the latestin the series of NOAA polar-orbiting environmental satellites that have served the nation. (More)