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NOAA-21 is Operational

November 8, 2023
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NOAA-21 is now fully operational in NOAA’s fleet of polar-orbiting satellites that provide critical data to improve the accuracy of 3-to-7 day weather forecasts – including extreme weather events – and monitor climate change.

The newest satellite in the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) constellation, NOAA-21 launched on November 10, 2022, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, joining NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP in orbit. NOAA-21 is flying half an orbit, or 50 minutes, ahead of NOAA-20, with Suomi NPP between them. Each orbit the Earth from the North to the South Pole 14 times a day, providing complete global data coverage twice daily. These satellites take measurements and images that help monitor hurricanes, snowstorms, floods, wildfires, and also the ozone layer.

After ten months, NOAA-21 has now completed its post-launch testing period. During this time, all the spacecraft’s primary systems were checked, including the power system, communications system, computer and data system, and the propulsion system. The instruments were activated and outgassed to protect their sensors, then calibrated and checked through a series of satellite maneuvers to ensure they were performing as expected. Operational science testing was completed to inspect the quality of the instrument data sent back via the ground system. Once this phase was completed, NOAA validated all the satellite products before deeming them ready to use by the National Weather Service.

There are four instruments on board NOAA-21: the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), the Cross-Track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). These instruments gather vital measurements and data for daily and extreme weather forecasts as well as land and sea surface temperatures, rainfall rates, snow and ice cover, fire locations, smoke plumes, temperatures in the atmosphere, water vapor, and pollutants.

“NOAA-21 complements the operational on-orbit satellites in the JPSS constellation and will further the outstanding science that JPSS has provided since 2011. The series provides crucial weather and climate data to the world and the addition of NOAA-21 will further our mission to help protect lives and property around the globe,” says Tim Walsh, Director of the Office of Low Earth Orbit Observations. 

NOAA-21 continues the JPSS Program’s tradition of providing excellent and critical data to users around the globe. The JPSS system of satellites will ensure data continuity for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and much more, well into the 2030s. The next JPSS satellite will launch in 2027, with the final satellite in the series having a targeted launch date of 2032. Satellites from the JPSS series are designed to operate for seven years, with the potential for several more years following.