NASA's NPP satellite completes comprehensive testing

August 8, 2011, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The NPP spacecraft in a cleanroom at Ball Aerospace undergoes inspection by a technician following electromagnetic compatibility testing. Credit: Ball Aerospace

The NASA National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP) has successfully completed its most comprehensive end-to-end compatibility test of the actual satellite and all five scientific instruments at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp's production and test facility in Boulder, Colo.

During the four-week NPP Compatibility Test 4 (NCT4), all segments of the ground system were assessed including active commanding of the satellite as well as monitoring the flow of both satellite health and safety and science data (both actual and simulated). NASA utilized two tracking and data networks in support of this mission test, the primary tracking antenna site located in Svalbard, Norway, and the Tacking and Data Relay Satellite System networks.

Data transfers involved all ground system command and control components located at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md., and data processing centers located at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., as well as other centers in Colorado, North Carolina and Nebraska. Mission team member participation included: NASA, NOAA, the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense.

"The successful completion of this test has all of our NPP team members excited," stated Raymond J. Pages, the NPP Project Integration Manager. "It's a major milestone that supports our readiness to launch in October."

The NCT4 also served as a high-fidelity operational "dress rehearsal" called Mission Rehearsal 3 (MR3), which simulated on-orbit operations beginning with the launch phase and continuing through instrument activation. The successful completion of NCT4 and MR3 signifies that all mission systems are ready to proceed to launch. Additional testing will be performed during the remaining two-and-a-half months prior to launch to maintain operational and system proficiency.

NPP contains a suite of five sensors that will make measurements to continue producing key data products about Earth including, for example, measurements of cloud, vegetation, and ice cover, ocean color, and sea and land surface temperatures.

The five instruments are the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS); the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS); the Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES); the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS); and the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS).

Data from NPP will be used in a range of situations to address an array of research questions. Earth scientists will use the data to enhance their understanding of climate change. NOAA meteorologists will incorporate the data into their weather and climate prediction models to produce accurate, life-saving forecasts and warnings. Also NPP will help emergency responders monitor and react to natural disasters.

The NPP mission will help link the current generation of Earth-observing satellites called the Earth Observing System (EOS) to a next-generation of operational polar-orbiting environmental satellites called the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), managed by NOAA. NPP data will also be used as input to numerical weather models until the JPSS system is deployed.

The NPP is scheduled to be delivered to the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Calif., on August 24 to undergo final preparations for a planned October 25 launch.

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