NASA has selected Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colorado, and Spectrum Astro, Inc., Gilbert, Arizona, to perform spacecraft design studies for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP).

Under terms of the $3 million delivery orders, Ball Aerospace and Spectrum Astro will develop a preliminary spacecraft design culminating in a design review by the end of 2001. Selection of a spacecraft bus for the NPP mission is expected in 2002. The delivery orders were awarded by the Rapid Spacecraft Development Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Goddard’s NPP Project Office is managing the study contracts.

NPP is a joint mission with contributions by NASA and NOAA’s National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Integrated Program Office (IPO). NASA is providing the NPP spacecraft and one of the three advanced sensors. The IPO will develop two new sensors, the spacecraft operations control center and ground processing systems.

The NPP spacecraft will be launched into a 515-mile (824-km) orbit in late 2005. The satellite will extend the series of measurements initiated with instruments aboard NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) Terra and Aqua satellites. NPP will provide the first flight opportunity for three NPOESS instruments: the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), the Cross-Track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), and the Visible-Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). All three of these instruments are currently under development.

With a 5-year design lifetime, NPP will continue the measurements started by the EOS Terra and Aqua spacecraft and bridge the timeframe until the flight of the first NPOESS spacecraft late in the decade. The NPOESS merges Department of Defense and Department of Commerce meteorological satellite systems into a single national asset.

The NPP mission will also provide operational agencies – NOAA and the DoD — early access to data from the next generation of operational sensors, thereby greatly reducing the risks incurred during the transition. This will permit testing of the advanced ground operations facilities and validation of sensors and algorithms while the current operational systems are still in place. This new system will provide nearly an order of magnitude more data than the current operational system.

NPOESS and NASA have undertaken a far-reaching program of sensor development and satellite transition to provide complete coverage of meteorological conditions for civil, military, and scientific purposes while cutting operational costs dramatically. To accomplish its mission, NPOESS satellites will replace NOAA’s Polar-Orbiting Environmental System (POES) and the DoD’s two-satellite Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) constellation that have served the nation for many years.

Observing the Earth from space, polar-orbiting satellites collect and disseminate data on Earth’s weather and atmosphere, oceans, land, and space environment. The polar orbiters are able to monitor the entire Earth to provide data for long-range weather and climate forecasts.

The NPOESS program extends to the year 2018, building on new technologies to create a new system supporting long-term data continuity for environmental monitoring and global change assessment.

More information about the NPP mission is available at the following web site: