NOAA’s New Polar Orbiting Satellite to Launch November 18th

A new polar orbiting satellite, the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1), is scheduled to launch Wednesday, November 15th, at 1:47am PDT from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Update [11/16 at 11:39am CST]: The morning launch was scrubbed due to strong upper level winds. The new launch time is scheduled for Saturday, November 18th, at 1:47am PST.

The ULA Delta II rocket on the launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, equipped with the JPSS-1. Image credit: NASA

The JPSS-1 is on board the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and will be instrumental to weather forecasting operations. A critical component of the polar-orbiting family, the JPSS-1 will revolve around the Earth from the North Pole to South Pole roughly 14 times a day in order to provide a global view of the planet. 

JPSS-1 will gather data from the atmosphere, land, and oceans, including: air, land, and sea surface temperatures; soil moisture content, e.g. vegetation; water vapor and rainfall; snow and ice cover; wildfires and smoke plumes, and ozone. 

What is a polar orbiting satellite?

Unlike the Geostationary Operating Environmental Satellites (GOES) which are in a geosynchronous lock to Earth’s rotation, the Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) revolve around the Earth multiple times daily at an altitude much lower than the GOES constellations. The JPSS-1 will orbit at an altitude of 444 nautical miles above the surface of the Earth, according to the operational plans from NASA.

Polar orbiting satellites also cross the equator at the same local time during their orbital journey, and are sun-synchronous satellites. 

A schematic of a polar orbiting satellite. Image credit: Northrop Grumman, a division of the Joint Polar Satellite System Program

Equipped on the JPSS-1 includes the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument, which detects visible and infrared satellite imagery of the Earth. The VIIRS instrument was also equipped on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite which launched in October of 2011. 

Suomi-NPP VIIRS first ever image collected on November 24th, 2011. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) will collect essential information such as moisture and temperature. In addition to the ATMS, the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) will operate jointly with the ATMS to record information on atmospheric greenhouse gases, as well as temperature and moisture observations for weather and climate prediction. 

The final two instruments include the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), and Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES). These instruments will monitor ozone concentration and transport, and measure the spatiotemporal distributions of the radiation budget for Earth, respectively. 

The latest Suomi NPP VIIRS image of the Earth taken on November 13th, 2017. Image credit: NASA/NESDIS/NOAA

Once the JPSS-1 becomes operational in its orbit, it will be known as the NOAA-20. It will join the current fleet of satellites involved with and operated by NOAA such as GOES-16, GOES-East and West, Jason-3, Suomi NPP, and the DSCOVR. Satellite data is a crucial component for operational weather forecasting, as the data is ingested into the numerical weather prediction models in addition to the realtime observations that occur on land and at sea. A link to watch the rocket launch live can be found here

The NOAA Office of Satellite and Ground Services facility in Silver Spring, Maryland. Image credit: NOAA


NOAA and the Joint Polar Satellite System Program,

The United Launch Alliance,


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