Antarctica Data Acquisition


Dual Metop satellites orbiting Earth with satellite dishes near North Pole and South Pole

Satellite ground stations located at both McMurdo Station and Svalbard dramatically
decrease lag time in getting data to end users.
(Image credits: Katya Merezhinsky, NOAA)

The Antarctica Data Acquisition (ADA) is a high value initiative that continues to greatly benefit the users of MetOp satellite environmental data and products. It leveraged existing NOAA ground system resources from the Initial Joint Polar Satellite (IJPS) and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) programs. The opportunity involved international cooperation within the context of the IJPS program and intergovernmental cooperation between NOAA and NASA through the JPSS program. The JPSS Antarctica ground site (at McMurdo) now complements EUMETSAT’s Arctic ground site (at Svalbard). In June 2011 ADA Metop operations began. The primary MetOp satellite, Metop-B, data is collected and distributed twice per orbit resulting with the data latency reduced by one-half (from 100 minutes to 50 minutes). Data latency is the amount of time from when images are captured by the satellite instruments to when that information is first available to users. The improved data timeliness provides more accurate numerical weather prediction models. This ultimately results with reduced loss of life and increased economic benefits within the US and worldwide.

Night-time view of satellite dish lit up from the inside against the Milky Way.

The NASA/NOAA Near Earth Network satellite dish, near McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
(Image credits: Joshua Swanson, National Science Foundation)

In 1998, NOAA and EUMETSAT entered into a collaborative agreement and established the IJPS program. The agreement commits to the IJPS program the last two NOAA heritage satellites (NOAA-18 and NOAA-19) and two first generation EUMETSAT polar satellites (MetOp-A and MetOp-B). Additionally, the IJPS agreement required NOAA and EUMETSAT to upgrade their ground systems to receive, process, and distribute data from each other’s prime operational satellite. In 2005, the signed Joint Transition Activities (JTA) agreement expanded the collaborative arrangements to include a third EUMETSAT satellite (MetOp-C), the NOAA’s next generation Polar satellites developed through the JPSS program, and the continuity of the shared ground system collaboration. In January 2013, the ADA effort was recognized by the Department of Commerce and awarded its highest award, the Gold award.

Satellite photo of Antarctica showing location of McMurdo Station

Google Maps view of McMurdo, Antarctica (Imagery credits: U.S. Geological Survey, Data SIO,
NOAA, U.S. Navy, GEBCO, PGC/NASA, Landsat/Copernicus)

When Metop-C is declared operational it will replace Metop-B as the primary Metop satellite. Metop-C data is collected and distributed twice per orbit. Metop-A and Metop-B are secondary satellites and are supported once per orbit. Metop-C launch is in November 2019. Metop-C operations begins 2nd quarter 2019 after Metop-C completes its post launch commission phase.

For more information about the Metop-C satellite program, follow the link.