A little while ago the JPSS-1 satellite blasted off atop a Delta 2 rocket in its 7920 configuration from the Vandenberg base. After almost one hour it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and entered a Sun-synchronous orbit, meaning it will fly over every area of the Earth’s surface at the same local time, at an altitude of about 824 kilometers (512 miles).
The JPSS-1 (Joint Polar Satellite System 1) satellite is the first of the new generation of US satellites for environmental monitoring. The project was developed jointly by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to carry out continuous surveys with a range of instruments that will allow to monitor land, oceans and atmosphere.
Those surveys can be used to monitor ordinary conditions such as those of surface and atmospheric temperatures, vegetation and a variety events such as rainfalls, snow or ice. They will also be useful in case of crises and exceptional events such as wildfires and smoke plumes.
Many data can be used to improve weather forecast, an increasingly important use with the growth of extreme phenomena. Other data will be used to monitor seasonal changes and, along with those collected over the course of decades by other satellites and ground instruments, medium and long-term climatic ones.
After the test period, the JPSS-1 satellite will start its active service and at that point will also be known as NOAA-20, marking an important moment for environment monitoring. NASA and NOAA created the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite launched in 2011 as the forerunner of the new generation of satellites and to fill the gap between them and the previous generation.
JPSS satellites also represent the American contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) initiative. This means that their surveys will be made available to international partners in a collaboration that includes, for example, the European satellites of the GMES / Copernicus program. The various satellites have different instruments so their surveys can complement each other while a number of them operate from the same orbit.
A total of 4 JPSS satellites will be put into orbit but their launch is scheduled throughout several years: JPSS-2 in 2021, JPSS-3 in 2026, and JPSS-4 in 2031. That’s a long-term program that fits in an environment monitoring system that has become increasingly sophisticated over the decades.