Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered the first Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for early integration into a new spacecraft, for the NPOESS Preparatory Program (NPP), to be launched in early 2008 to monitor global environmental conditions.

The ATMS, the next-generation satellite microwave instrument, will profile atmospheric temperature, moisture and pressure. It was successfully tested over conditions that simulate the space environment during 1,500 hours of operation. An earlier ATMS developmental unit was delivered by Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector to NASA in June to qualify the ATMS design for incorporation into the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the NPOESS program.

“Completion and acceptance of the first flight instrument for NPOESS is truly an outstanding accomplishment for NPP and the NPOESS program,” said Ken Schwer, NPP program manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Over the last few years Northrop Grumman has been a model instrument team for Goddard Space Flight Center. The quality and timely completion of the ATMS instrument is a testament to the professionalism and expertise of the ATMS team.”

The ATMS is the first instrument to be delivered for the NPP bridge mission, which is a joint risk-reduction effort between NASA and the NPOESS Integrated Program Office. NPOESS is a satellite system that will monitor global environmental conditions, and gather and disseminate data related to weather, the atmosphere and the Earth’s environment. NPOESS will merge current polar-orbiting weather satellite systems into a single national program serving civil, military and scientific users. ATMS will characterize clouds, atmospheric temperature, pressure and moisture and provide its microwave data to NPOESS algorithms.

“ATMS will have a groundbreaking impact on the future of weather forecasting and climate-change research,” said Taylor W. Lawrence, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s C4ISR and Space Sensors division. “The flight instrument has met all of its technical and risk-reduction objectives and has been deemed very successful by NASA.”

ATMS is an extraordinarily sensitive radiometer with 22 channels tuned to detect microwave energy emitted and scattered by the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. It combines the capabilities of three previously-built weather sounding sensors: two Advanced Microwave Sounding Units (AMSU-A1 and AMSU-A2) and the Microwave Humidity Sounder. When ATMS looks into the eye of a hurricane, these three sounders will measure data that will provide a clearer picture of the hurricane’s warm core and the intensity of its rainfall. This data will then help forecasters more accurately measure the hurricane’s intensity, and thus improve statistical models for hurricane prediction, potentially saving lives and property.

Northrop Grumman’s advanced design includes innovative technologies to enable ATMS to provide higher spatial resolution, higher sampling rates, reduced package volume and considerably longer mission life than its predecessor. The instrument is also configured with built-in diagnostics and software upload capability.

Northrop Grumman’s C4ISR and Space Sensors Division is a component of the company’s Baltimore-based Electronic Systems sector, a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of defense and commercial electronic systems and sensors, including airborne radar, navigation systems, electronic countermeasures, precision weapons, airspace management systems, communications systems, space sensors, marine and naval systems, government systems and logistics services.


Tom Delaney
Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems
(410) 993-6454