New ground network gives forecasters quicker access to satellite weather data

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EL SEGUNDO, California — Raytheon announced Nov. 7 that it has upgraded the Common Ground System that NASA and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use to support the new weather satellite, Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) -1 scheduled to launch Nov. 14, and 10 U.S., European and Japanese spacecraft already in orbit.

JPSS-1. Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies
JPSS-1. Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies

The Common Ground Station 2.0 already is retrieving satellite data from a new ground station at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in addition to the ground station in Svalbard, Norway, that NASA and NOAA relied on in the first generation of the Common Ground System.

With the new site, JPSS-1 will be able to send data to forecasters at NOAA’s National Weather Service twice during every 90 minute orbit, said Mark Sargent, Raytheon’s JPSS Common Ground System program director. “The benefit is the data is not aging on the satellite,” Sargent told reporters during a Nov. 7 briefing. “For the forecasters latency is really important.”

NASA and NOAA are continuing to downlink data from the JPSS prototype, the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite launched in 2011, exclusively to Svalbard, Sargent said.

The benefits of the Common Ground System 2.0 extend beyond JPSS-1 mission. Because the program is a remnant of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, which was designed to handle military and civil requirements, it supports the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and Windsat, the microwave radiometer aboard the Naval Research Laboratory’s Coriolis satellite.

The Japanese Global Change Observation Mission 1st-Water satellite, the Eumetsat MetOp-A and MetOp-B, and NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites also transmit data through the Common Ground System 2.0.

“We are responsible for managing the global network and routing information to the end users,” Sargent said.

The Common Ground System 2.0 allows mission managers to obtain JPSS-1 observation data through NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). NASA used TDRSS to send safety and “housekeeping” instructions to the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite but not to obtain mission data, Sargent said.

“With the Common Ground System 2.0 you can download mission data through TDRSS if there is an area of interest or you would like to reduce latency,” Sargent said. “You don’t have to wait until the satellites is at one of the poles.”