Suomi NPP, the NASA testbed satellite pressed into duty as the first operational component of the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System following its 2011, launch is now the United States’ primary polar-orbiting weather satellite, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced May 1.

The designation gives Suomi-NPP operational priority over other satellites in the U.S. weather-forecasting constellation managed by NOAA, the agency said in an online post.  Suomi-NPP replaces the still-in-service NOAA-19 as the primary U.S. polar-orbiter, NOAA said. 

The next U.S. polar weather satellite to launch will be JPSS-1, which is slated for liftoff in 2017. JPSS-2 would follow in 2021, according to NOAA’s current projections. The whole JPSS program, including ground systems, is expected to cost about $11.3 billion to provide global weather coverage from polar orbit through 2025. It will include at least four satellites.