David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1730)

Mark Hess

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

(Phone: 301/286-8982)


A California firm has been selected by the NASA Office of
Earth Sciences, Washington, DC, to implement a next-generation
satellite package that could improve weather forecasting two-
fold and help in the research of global climate change.

Gencorp Aerojet, based in Azusa, CA, was selected to build the
Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS). The space-borne
atmospheric instrument will measure microwave energy emitted
and scattered by the atmosphere. ATMS will work alongside an
infrared sounder instrument to produce daily global atmospheric
temperature, humidity and pressure profiles. These profiles are
essential to accurate weather forecasting and long-term climate

The contract is worth $206.6 million, with the majority of the
work to be performed in Azusa, CA. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Center, Greenbelt, MD, will be responsible for the oversight of
the award.

“As we develop this advanced technology instrument, we move
closer to improving our constellation of weather and climate
observing satellites to the point where we will be able to
improve forecasts from the current three-to-five day accuracy
level of predictions on to seven-to-ten day predictions,” said
Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associated Administrator for NASA’s Earth
Sciences Enterprise, Headquarters, Washington, DC. “These new
technologies will provide an order of magnitude increase in our
predictive capabilities, and our overall understanding of
Earth’s climate in the new millennium.”

ATMS will replace instruments currently flying on polar-
orbiting weather satellites. The new instrument is about one-
third the size and weight of existing microwave sounding
systems currently on the Polar-orbiting Operational
Environmental Satellites and the Aqua spacecraft.

This miniaturization technology is made possible by new
advances in microwave electronics and will enable NASA to
develop smaller and less-expensive spacecraft to fly ATMS and
other instruments.

“We are investing in key technologies such as ATMS to meet our
national strategic objectives in weather and climate research,”
Dr. Asrar added.

The first ATMS unit is planned to be flown on a project being
developed by the National Polar-orbiting Operational
Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project
“Bridge” mission, a tri-agency program involving NASA, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S.
Air Force. The NPOESS program merges civilian and military
polar-orbiting satellite systems in a single, comprehensive

The Bridge mission will ensure continuity of research quality
data by “bridging” sounding data between the NASA Earth
Observing System research missions and the NPOESS operational
missions of the future.

The 1994 Presidential Decision Directive that established the
NPOESS Integrated Program Office charged NASA with the
responsibility for developing and implementing new cost-
effective technologies. NOAA was charged with overall
responsibility for the converged system, as well as satellite
operations and interactions with the civil and international
user communities. The U.S Air Force has the responsibility for
major systems acquisitions, including launch support.

Additional information about the program is available on the
Internet at: