David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1730)

RELEASE: 99-144


NASA will flight-test an instrument using new technologies to
measure elements of Earth’s atmosphere and to support space
research aimed at reducing risks from severe weather. This
measurement concept, known as the Geostationary Imaging Fourier
Transform Spectrometer, has been selected as the next Earth-
observing mission under NASA’s New Millennium Program.

The mission — known as “Earth Observing 3” — will test
advanced technologies for measuring temperature, water vapor, wind
and chemical composition with high resolution, in space and over
time. Such sophisticated measurements have the potential for
revolutionary improvements in weather observation and prediction,
by providing unique observations of the spectral properties of
clouds and the transport of pollutants in the atmosphere.

“In 2003, this space flight demonstration will involve
genuinely revolutionary measurement approaches that will have a
major impact on Earth system science,” said Dr. Ghassem Asrar,
Associate Administrator for Earth Science, NASA Headquarters,
Washington, DC. “The eventual incorporation of this technology on
geostationary weather satellites would provide up-to-the-minute
information, never before available, on active severe weather
systems, such as hurricanes and tornados.

“These observations will help improve the accuracy of the
current three-day weather forecasts and extend the duration of
forecasts up to five days during the next decade,” Asrar said.

Managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, the
mission uses an advanced imaging spectrometer based on
breakthrough technologies such as a large-area focal-plane array,
new data-readout and signal-processing electronics, and passive
thermal switching. Today’s geostationary satellites observe
Earth, its atmosphere and oceans in only a few selected spectral
bands. This new instrument will improve observational
capabilities to several hundred spectral bands that will provide
both additional and more detailed information.

NASA selected this concept from four finalist ideas culled
from 24 proposals submitted in response to a NASA research
announcement released in September 1997. The theme for the
solicitation was to test innovative approaches for observing
Earth’s surface and atmosphere from positions outside low-Earth
orbits, with an emphasis on advanced measurement concepts and

The selection process was carried out by NASA Headquarters,
and included evaluations of each concept study by external peer
reviewers. The total NASA cost of the mission, including
contribution to launch, is expected to be approximately $105

The first Earth-orbiting mission under the New Millennium
Program, Earth Observing 1, is scheduled for launch in spring of
2000. Managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt,
MD, that mission will demonstrate an advanced land-imager system
and hyperspectral imaging technologies that may eventually replace
the current measurement approach used by Landsat satellites.
Further information on the Earth Observing 1 mission is available
on the Internet at URL:


Created in 1994, the New Millennium Program is designed to
identify, develop and flight-validate advanced technologies that
can lower costs and enable critical performance of future science
missions in the 21st century. The program is managed by NASA’s
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA’s Office of
Earth Science and Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.
Further information on the New Millennium program is available at


Information about NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, dedicated
to understanding how human-induced and natural changes affect the
Earth’s total environmental system, is available at URL: