NPP Weather Satellite Lifts Off from Vandenberg

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The first next-generation U.S. civil polar-orbiting weather satellite was launched successfully from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard a Delta 2 rocket in the early morning hours of Oct. 28.

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) was conceived as an instrument test-bed for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, a civil-military project involving NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense. The NASA-led NPP mission was thrust into an operational role following delays to the civil-military system, which was canceled in 2010.

Data from NPP will be available in about three months, according to an Oct 28 press release from NASA, which intends to use the satellite’s data for climate research. NOAA will use the satellite’s observations for weather forecasting.

The satellite platform was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo. It carries a package of instruments built by companies including Ball, ITT, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. Another instrument was built by NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

NPP is effectively the first satellite in NOAA’s planned Joint Polar Satellite System, whose development is being led by NASA.

The NPP launch was the last scheduled Delta 2 mission. United Launch Alliance discontinued production of the medium-lift vehicle after the U.S. Air Force stopped using it, but five remain in the company’s inventory.

The Delta 2 was recently added to the NASA Launch Services 2 contract, but the vehicle has yet pick up any NASA science payloads.